Eastwood's Addiction for a Thriller killer
"Tightrope" could have been an above average movie, it isn't as it ends up flawed and average but it had the potential to be something good. The potential of "Tightrope" is in that it takes the cliche idea of a serial killer drawing a detective into a game of cat n mouse and embellishes it by making the detective a flawed characters whose enjoyment of kinky sex with prostitutes makes him a possible suspect, especially when the serial killer starts targeting the women which the detective has slept with. It also had potential in taking the cliche of Clint Eastwood playing a detective but rather than making him a mean bastard making him one with this secret of being a well known visitor to brothels in New Orleans. But sadly all this potential comes to nothing because of a final third which is so routine that it undoes all that was good about the first two parts and drags things on far too long.
With a serial killer at work Detective Wes Block (Clint Eastwood - Bronco Billy) is assigned the case but it leads him into temptation as he has to go into the red light district of New Orleans a district where he is known as a customer as well as a cop. And Block can't resist temptation something which the serial killer knows as he starts killing the women which he has slept with. But as Block gets ever closer to discovering who the killer is the more personal it becomes with even his children in danger.
Now "Tightrope" is very much a three stage movie with the first two stages being where it works the best and delivers something different and almost ambitious. We may open up with a woman being killed but as we watch Detective Wes Block investigate we quickly come to realise that he is well known amongst the prostitutes in New Orleans and that he enjoys having dominant sex with them, using his handcuffs to enforce control. It immediately makes him a flawed and interesting character especially as we also learn that he is separated from his wife and looking after their two daughters. We don't learn why his wife left him but the fact that in one scene we having the loving father and then the next this sly detective who sleeps with various women makes for a wonderful conflict.
This interesting first section is then built upon as whilst it is a cliche that the serial killer will start toying with Block, the way in which he does it makes it work. We watch as the killer initially targets women which Block sleeps with but takes it a step further by even lining up a prostitute for Block to visit as he toys with him to the point of even sending Block to a gay bar to meet a man. And so as we watch Block have to deal with women he has slept with showing up dead and you can see the panic that his secret may surface and that he could become a suspect especially when items he accidentally leave behind show up near the latest victims.
And whilst this is going on we also get the friendship and romance which forms between Block and rape councillor Beryl Thibodeaux a very different sort of woman to those which Block goes for. And as such the way this romance blossoms with an underlying respect surfacing between Block and Beryl speaks volumes of how Block sees women, some to be used whilst others deserve respect and love.
Now all of this is good and you can add to this the casting of Eastwood's own daughter Alison as one of his on screen daughters, adding some nice tenderness in a few scenes. But all that is good is then undone in a final third where it becomes very ordinary. Firstly Block somehow manages to work out who the serial killer is, seeming to pluck the identity from thin air. And then in a rather ordinary manner it becomes personal as the serial killer targets those who mean the most to Block. It just seems so expected and frankly dull having spent so long creating this different set up. And that means whilst the final confrontation is in one sense brutal it is also surprisingly dull and drawn out as Block gives chase.
Despite ending up quite ordinary the performance of Clint Eastwood helps lift things and rather than having him play a nasty detective having him play a flawed one works. The sex side of things as Block indulges his lust for women is very similar to what Eastwood did with Dirty Harry, but whilst enjoying dominating women you can also see his conflict as he knows he is digging himself into a deeper mess with every woman he sleeps with. And as already mentioned having Eastwood act with his own daughter Alison throws up some fun scenes although Jenny Beck as his youngest steals many a scenes especially with inquisitive questions such as "what's a hard on".
What this all boils down to is that for the first two thirds "Tightrope" works, it is an interesting take on the serial killer thriller with a detective drawn into a game of cat n mouse. But sadly it spoils things by delivering a dull and ordinary final third which as well as being cliche also feels drawn out. It means that whilst "Tightrope" does end up an average thriller it will grab your attention during the first half especially with Eastwood playing a character who borders on being a sex addict.