Director-actor Clint Eastwood's new film is another in his neverending series of aging-detective-follows-moral-imperative-and-solves-crime. And although he is very visibly aging (now 72) far beyond the point where he should be playing opposite someone thirty years younger, in this case the TV actress Wanda De Jesus, he remains an attractive icon on screen. "Blood Work" presents him as Terry McCaleb, a retired FBI agent living on his boat, who suffered a heart attack two years before while chasing a murder suspect. He now has a transplanted heart that turns out to be from a young mother who was murdered. Her sister Graciella (De Jesus) insists that he now has an obligation to find her murderer.
The screenplay, by Brian Helgeland, who's written everything from "A Knight's Tale" to "Conspiracy Theory", "LA Confidential," and "The Postman," is a by-the-numbers procedural, with the now-civilian McCaleb treading on police toes as he works his way to the murderer. It's a serviceable plot but not at all inspired, and if you haven't figured out who the villain is by the halfway point you're not the filmgoer I think you are.
Eastwood was always more a screen icon than an actor, and what he gives us here is a set of mannerisms - hoarse voice, slow walk, thoughtful look - rather than a human being. But "Blood Work" has the benefit of the great Anjelica Huston in what is little more than a cameo as McCaleb's physician, and the screen crackles every time she walks into a scene. Jeff Daniels, as an aging hippie on a neighboring boat, does nicely as McCaleb's chauffeur, driving him around as he tracks down leads in the L.A. region because McCaleb's car has air bags and one hit would kill him. But De Jesus is cast way above her talent; she is better suited to small town dinner theatre than to a role as Eastwood's lover. She has a hard time matching her expressions with her line readings, and seems to pause for an eternity before completing a sentence.
The nice thing about procedurals, obvious but rarely stated, is that they give us the pleasure of watching something like a chess match, move by move, as the antagonists take us toward the solution, the end game, the victory. In this case, though, the early steps are much more interesting than the end game, which director Eastwood simply stretches out in an effort to prolong the tension beyond what is needed for the film. "Blood Work" would have been better had it been fifteen minutes shorter.