Washington in need of a bit of Clint magic
Like so many movies "True Crime" has the potential to be a good movie but then falls at the final hurdle when it comes to generating a worthy ending. And it is a shame as for the first three quarters "True Crime" works; it may have a touch of stereotypical Eastwood about it but the story of Steve Everett a journalist believing that an innocent man is about to be executed on death row is interesting. Just watching Everett relentlessly trying to find out the truth before it's too late whilst also dealing with his failing marriage is well paced and entertaining. But it all goes wrong in the final quarter, not disastrously wrong but has a feeling of being a rushed ending, everything coming together neatly to deliver perfect closure.
With a love of women and alcohol Steve Everett (Clint Eastwood - Absolute Power) is not the most popular journalist at the Oakland Tribune especially when he is sleeping with is boss's wife. But when another journalist dies in a car crash, Steve is given her job to do, to write a human interests piece on Frank Beechum (Isaiah Washington) who is on death row and due to be executed in less than 24 hours. But as Steve looks through the files on Frank he starts to believe that Frank is innocent and sets out to prove it before it's too late.
It wouldn't be unjust to say that there is something stereotypical Clint Eastwood about "True Crime" as along with directing he stars as an old time journalist whose old fashioned ways of doing things rubs the next generation of journalists up the wrong way. Here is a man who is having an affair with a work colleague's wife, shows no regret for doing so, smokes in a smoke free office and well think of any old sexist character and Everett has those traits and more. But this is what Eastwood does so well, he plays the un-pc anti-establishment characters so well that we end up liking him and enjoy the fact that he doesn't give a dam what anyone thinks about him.
Aside from that well whilst Everett is a journalist covering the execution of Frank Beechum he might as well be a detective as "True Crime" is all about trying to get to the bottom of things before time runs out for Frank. And so with less than 24 hours to go we watch as Everett picks up on the smallest details, the moved stand in a convenience store which would have blocked a witness's view, the fact that Frank agreed to a lie detector test and so on. We even having Everett harassing witnesses to try and discover the truth. Yes there is something very stereotypical Clint Eastwood about "True Crime" but it is for the most entertaining.
Part of why it's so entertaining is that it has different layers with Everett's investigations being the main one. Alongside this we get a look at what life is like for Frank Beechum in his last hours, the emotional visit from his wife and daughter and how the Warden tries to keep everything running smoothly. It's a fascinating side and whilst not massively hard hitting there are some very strong scenes such as when Frank has to say bye to his daughter for the last time.
On top of this you have the combined layers of Everett's adultery causing him not only to have issues at work but also at home. And Eastwood delivers these in such a way they end up adding lighter moments to the story as Everett goes head to head with his boss Bob Findley whose wife he is sleeping with. It does get a little strange as we have a scene which sees Everett racing around the zoo with his daughter as he has better things to do with his time but it sort of works to establish his character.
But sadly what doesn't work it the ending or the final quarter which goes seriously off the rails. It all starts with a twist, a twist which is contrived and comes from a character which seems for the most pointless and then it just goes stupid with car chases and manufactured drama. Now part of the drama you sort of expect as Frank is prepped for death by lethal injection but to make this edge of your seat ends up very wrong. And so is the way it then searches for closure which is a mix of just bad and very cheesy. The ending doesn't ruin "True Crime" but it makes it average which up to the three quarter point it was a lot more.
What this all boils down to is that "True Crime" is very much an average Clint Eastwood movie, like a few of his other thrillers which came at the turn of the century. And in a way it's a shame as Eastwood delivers a solid performance and for three quarters the storyline works but sadly it fails when it comes to the ending and not only become contrived but also corny.