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true crime

True Crime

Starring Clint Eastwood;
Isaiah Washington, Denis Leary, James Woods, Diane Venora
Screenplay by Larry Gross and Paul Brickman and Stephen Schiff
Based on the novel by Andrew Klavan
Directed by Clint Eastwood
website: www.truecrimethemovie.com

IN SHORT: Date flick, with minor exceptions.

As always, no reference is made to the Source Material.

True Crime is a generally entertaining, lopsided tale of a hard-edged newspaper reporter who has gone soft around the edges. The script puts so much emphasis on developing colorful characters and interpersonal relationships -- and let's be fair, those are elements that are sorely lacking in most flicks. Problem is, they get in the way of what was probably meant to be a tense, race against the clock scenario.

Grizzled and old, lines cracking on his face, Steve Everett (Clint Eastwood) has lost his "nose for news." Prior to the story told here, he mightily screwed up "the Vargas Case," with a strong defense of notorious rapist who was, and confessed to, being guilty as sin. Of course, then Everett was souse. Now he's off the bottle big time though, horny old bugger that he is, he still haunts his favorite watering hole (William Windom as the barkeep).

This is where True Crime gets truly creepy. Everett's choice of liaison, at the open a cute'n'perky 23 year old reporter and at the end a similarly cute'n'perky 20s-ish young toy shop clerk, while probably every man's fantasy is downright creepy and unsettling on the big screen. I'll let the film student reviewers write that it's just a part of his colorful character; that Everett cannot adjust to the fact that he's old. That's an accurate character assessment. You watch Eastwood's face as he moves in for the kiss. You can almost hear it crack. It totally creeped out all the guys I talked to. Story-wise, the opening pass is important. The closing pass wrecks any good feeling about the movie. Onwards. . .

Everett, who was booted out of the New York Times for going head to head with local politicos is doing small feature pieces, saved from a life of unemployment by the Oakland Tribune's editor-in-chief, and friend, Alan Mann (James Woods). Woods fast talking, mind and mouth in the gutter style is reminiscent of 40s-ish editors from the old b/w movies. Everett's immediate boss, editor Bob Findley (Denis Leary) is cuckolded by the old man sleeping with Findley's wife. Findley wants Everett out of the paper. Mrs. Everett (Diane Venora) wants Mr. Everett out of her, and their 3 year old daughter's life, too. Like I said, lots of interpersonal color.

Assigned, at the last minute, to cover the execution of a cold blooded murderer, Everett does some checking into the details that led Frank Beechum (Isaiah Washington) to death row. Seen covered in blood, standing over the body of a 6-months pregnant coed convenience store clerk, a cut and dried case becomes uncut when Everett catches a flaw in one of the witnesses stories. With less than 12 hours until the execution, can he find enough evidence to get the Governor to pick up the phone and say "stop"?

Like I said, a tense, race against the clock scenario. Weepy wife and child. Vengeance seeking parent. Outraged witnesses and district attorneys. A grandmother with the final clue screaming about racial bias. All good stuff.

True Crime's anti-death penalty, liberal slant is slopped on mightily (Cranky's a liberal so he can say that). The point raised is a legitimate question -- what if the person facing execution were absolutely, positively innocent, convicted solely on what could only be called circumstantial evidence. What are the ramifications is true and verifiable evidence emerges too late? True Crime tries to have it both ways, strong story and political message, but the characters get in the way. There's a neat little double twist at the ending, which is why I can poison your minds and make you think you know what's going to happen.

Cranky saw True Crime in a mixed audience of reviewers and real people with freebie passes. Most laughed in the right places and applauded at the end - far more applause than the occasional paid plants found in these screenings, so its legit. They also laughed at the wrong points, when overwrought characters chewed up the scenery. Eastwood's direction kicks the emotional level up just a tad high, for my taste, though this flick is a lot more enjoyable than his last one.

The other negative was noted by the women I talked to afterwards. They felt the movie was about 20 minutes too long. Cranky ascribes that to the extra overwrought shtick.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to True Crime, he would have paid...

$5.00

My initial reaction was to put True Crime at the $4.00 pay per view level, but I've upped it to Date flick level, 'cuz it isn't a difficult sit. Except for Eastwood's hits on the grandkinder age ladies. Yech.


The Cranky Critic® is a Registered Trademark of, and his website is  Copyright © 1995  -  2013 by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.