Boozer, skirt chaser, careless father. You could create your own list of reporter Steve Everett’s faults but there’s no time. A San Quentin Death Row prisoner is slated to die at midnight – a man Everett has suddenly realized is innocent. In his 21st film as diredctor and 41st as star, Clint Eastwood memorably plays Everett in True Crime, a savvy beat-the-clock thriller. Isaiah Washington, Denis Leary, Lisa Gay Hamilton, James Woods, Diane Venora and others populate this suspense tale that tightens to nerve-frying intensity intercutting the parallel stories of the inmate and Everett’s scramble to save him…and perhaps lift his own life out of the trash heap along the way. Everett is harried, determined and trying not to self-destruct. And the clock is ticking.
Not enough people went to see True Crime in theaters. Wasn’t Clint Eastwood too old to be playing a guy whom a variety of glorious women, from the middle-aged Diane Venora and Laila Robins to the young Mary McCormack and Lucy Liu, find attractive? Could the onetime Man with No Name credibly play a brilliant crime reporter, Steve Everett, with an ironic turn of phrase and an incurable habit of screwing up both his personal and professional lives? The respective answers to those questions are: hell no and hell yes. True Crime features one of Eastwood’s best and most entertaining performances–and his work as director is utterly assured.
The story (from Andrew Klavan’s bestselling novel) gives Everett the last-minute assignment of interviewing a condemned man (Isaiah Washington) on the eve of his execution. The prisoner, a born-again Christian and exemplary family man, has everything the reporter lacks except a shot at seeing the next sunrise. Everett sets out to get him that, yet far from making a beeline to the exculpatory evidence that will save the life of his “client,” this very tarnished hero has to spend a lot of the next 24 hours contending with the baggage he’s accumulated through drinking, wenching, and familial neglect. (A Pirandellian note: Everett’s daughter is played by Eastwood’s own daughter, Francesca Fisher-Eastwood, and her mother, Frances Fisher, returns for a feisty cameo as a prosecutor.)
This is a good one that got away. Don’t let it happen again. – Richard T. Jameson
Clint Eastwood’s face has hardened into chiselled rock, his strong torso is now wrinkled, his voice is hoarse and bodiless. Yet at sixty-eight, Eastwood is a more forceful actor than he was twenty years ago-less opaque, less stylized, and altogether more idiosyncratic. He’s too old and unsuited by temperament to play the tough city newspaper reporter in this film, but he still has an authority that few younger actors could match. The reporter, an ex-alcoholic, is selfish and faithless in many ways; he’s given up on everything but the truth, and he sets about investigating the case of a convicted murderer (Isaiah Washington) on the day the man is set to be executed at San Quentin. The ending of the movie-in which the reporter drives madly to the governor’s mansion as the execution commences-is an outrageous manipulation of the audience, but the rest of this melodrama, which Eastwood directed himself (Larry Gross, Paul Brickman, and Stephen Schiff adapted Andrew Klavan’s novel), is enjoyably lowdown and melancholy. Shot in Oakland. With James Woods, Denis Leary, Diane Venora, and Lisa Gay Hamilton. – David Denby
Copyright © 2006 The New Yorker