Absolute Power is what it's lacking
As an actor Clint Eastwood has given us many memorable characters such as Blondie in "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly", as a director he has also given us many brilliant movies such as "The Bridges of Madison County". But even Clint is prone to the occasional average movie both as an actor and director, which is my feelings towards the 1997 movie "Absolute Power" which alongside Eastwood features Gene Hackman and Ed Harris. It's by no means a terrible movie, just one which fails to deliver the suspense, thrill or drama which is expected of such a movie.
Whilst in the midst of robbing the mansion of successful businessman Walter Sullivan, master thief Luther Whitney (Clint Eastwood - Space Cowboys) is interrupted when a drunken couple stumble into the bedroom forcing him to hide. But when their drunken love making turns violent he is shocked as he realises the man is President Allen Richmond (Gene Hackman - Hoosiers) and even more so when two Secret Service agents barge into the room and shoot the woman. As the only witness to a murder evolving the President, Luther has to out wit both the police who put 2 and 2 together and believe he killed her as well as the secret service agents who want to silence him.
The storyline to "Absolute Power" is actually a major part of the issue because we know who the killers are, why and what the consequences are so instead of being a thriller throwing up the possibility of the President being a murderer it ends up being about a criminal who not only has to prove his innocence whilst dodging bullets but also deliver retribution for the wrong doings. It's disappointing because far too much is sign posted, especially when after the considerably long opening set up we realise that the violent man who attacks the woman is in fact the President. You know where it will all end up, you know that even though Eastwood's character Luther Whitney plans to leg it will decide to stay to fight for what's right, you even know when his estranged daughter is introduced how it will all end up. There's no real suspense to what is going to happen and as such "Absolute Power" is a movie which relies heavily on the acting skills of both Clint Eastwood and Gene Hackman, as well to some extent Ed Harris as the detective.
It also doesn't help that once again we have what should be a thriller but through contrived sequences the detectives believe they have their man. There is no real foundation for why Detective Seth Frank suddenly wonders whether it is Luther especially as he even rationalizes that Whitney isn't a murderer. Because of this it makes you have to take too much for granted and this carries on right to the end of the movie where more contrivances take place which you are forced to accept. It's sad as in some ways "Absolute Power" could have delivered a decent thriller had it not been for all these contrivances and coincidences which we are forced to accept.
But what really causes issues is that rarely did I find anything in "Absolute Power" which was exciting. From Luther being targeted by marksmen, cars being forced over cliff edges and even chase sequences through woods with the use of night vision goggles, none of it got me close to the edge of my seat. The nearest I came was from the most inconsequential scene where Luther is disarming an alarm with the counter visually showing the seconds ticking away till it sounds. In a movie which should be thrilling, suspenseful and exciting "Absolute Power" was rather flat.
As for the performances well again they were a little flat, Clint Eastwood delivers those moments of snarling moodiness as he goes on the offensive when his daughters life is threatened. But otherwise it was almost lifeless most likely caused by a 2 dimensional character which we struggle to empathise with. In fact in those opening scenes where we watch Luther watching the President attack the woman hiding away you almost feel like shouting at him to do something. It's a too mixed up character which fails to deliver and as such Eastwood fails to get much out of it.
The same can be said for Gene Hackman who it appears to be unsure how to play the President, one minute he appears to be a bumbling fool yet the next he is ruthless. Again it's a mixed up character going from one extreme to another and as such fails to work or even be believable that this man is the President of the US.
Elsewhere Ed Harris does his best with what turns out as a stock detective and Laura Linney is as always delightful as Luther's daughter Kate although under used. Even Scott Glenn fails to deliver anything more than a flat character as the secret service agent Bill Burton.
What this all boils down to is that whilst I am very disappointed with "Absolute Power" I didn't think it was a terrible movie. It's just as a movie which features Clint Eastwood both in front off and behind the camera my expectations were high, especially as it also features numerous other star names such as Gene Hackman, Laura Linney, Ed Harris and Scott Glenn. But if failed to deliver the excitement, the thrill, the tension which I was expecting of a movie about a dodgy killer President.