Men of Action Monday: Tightrope (1984)

The working week begins again and with it comes another installment of Men of Action. Tonight we look at Clint Eastwood. Now Clint has seen all kind of action in his time. He's done war pictures, cop flicks, spaghetti westerns, and The Bridges of Madison County. I'll try my best not to hold that last one against him. The flick we're looking at today is one of Clint's cop movies, but unlike his Dirty Harry character, Clint plays both sides of the law very differently while trying his best to balance on a....

Tightrope (1984) starring Clint Eastwood, Genevieve Bujold, Dan Hedaya, and Allison Eastwood. Directed by Richard Tuggle.

Wes Block (Eastwood) is two men. He's a single father is raising his two kids (one played by his own daughter Allison) after his wife divorced him. The other is a cop working homicide in New Orleans, some of the meanest streets for a cop to beat his flat feet. Murders start to happen in the city where women are being found strangled, and Wes is put on the job. Sometimes it makes for a long day at work so Wes likes to kick back and relax with a hooker just about every night.

Well, pretty soon the hookers that Wes frequents start getting picked off, and with no clues to go on The Big Easy ain't looking so easy for Wes anymore. The killer is out to mess with Wes' mind leaving little traces that are nods to the cop's own kinky sex life. Soon the killer is stalking after Wes' family and his rape counselor girlfriend Beryl (Bujold). It's up to Wes to stop the madman before the people he loves (as opposed to those he just has sex with) start getting hurt. 

Film Facts
--This was the screen debut of Allison Eastwood who has since gone on to become a model.

--Richard Tuggle had previously directed Clint in Escape from Alcatraz.

--There was talk at the time that this film might get Clint an Oscar nomination. It didn't.

--The film features many New Orleans landmarks such as Big Daddy's, Mardi Gras World, Louis Armstrong park, and Bourbon Street.

The Bug Speaks

I didn't check out the box too good when I lined this film up for today. So it's a bit of a disappointment that the film did not yield more action sequences for the star. I was hoping for a bit of Dirty Harry in the Crescent City, but instead what I got was a taut thriller with the slowest of slow burns. That's not to say there isn't any action. Clint gets to throw down a couple of times near the end of the film in some well done fight scenes, but Clint's Wes spends more time getting action from painted women than dealing any out.

That being said, it was a well constructed movie that leaves you guessing as to who the killer is right about until the end. This is mostly because although we do catch sight of the killer in one fleeting throwaway moment, he is never a character per se in the film. In a way I wish that the same script and actors had been directed by a giallo master like Sergio Martino who could have amped up the atmospheric qualities of the city, the suspense, and the kills. However Tuggle
does acquit himself fairly well with letting Clint do what ho does best, nothing.

Clint has always been a master of showing emotion in his eyes, but in this film it seems even more pronounced. Without the steeliness of Harry or The Man With No Name, Clint is free to play this character as a tortured soul who is seeking answers both in his case and inside himself. It nearly makes up for the plodding pace that mars the first hour of the film. The running time of nearly two hours feels far too long for the story involved, and if it wasn't for great performances by Eastwood and Bujold, the film would have lost my interest. 

In the end I have to say that this is one for folks who like to see a film set in NOLA, love Clint, or really like a thriller. For action fans there's really not much to see here and definitely not enough to sit though the film to get there. Here's hoping the next time we see Clint on a Monday he's kicking a bit more ass. 

Bug Rating

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