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Absolute Power C+, A

US/1997/Color/Widescreen, Anamorphic 2.35:1, P&S or Letterbox/Dolby Digital 5:1/121 minutes/Directed by Clint Eastwood/Starring Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman/Warner/35 Chaps/$24.98 

     Absolute Power isn’t really about abuse of power. It’s just an opportunity for Clint Eastwood to move unscathed through a preposterous series of conflicts with the FBI.  Even Eastwood’s cool can’t make any sense out of his actions after a burglary takes a turn off the thieves’ road. 
     Eastwood plays Luther Whitney, a sophisticated burglar making what appears to be a last score before retirement. The first question I ask myself is how come this guy is broke if he’s such a crack crook. I guess it’s his high flying life style. Wrong. He’s just a blue collar kind of guy with an Assistant DA for a daughter. Whitney’s cool. Whitney’s burglary is interrupted by the President of the United States arriving with the lady of the house. In the bedroom, where Whitney watches safely behind a two-way mirror, the sexual play becomes a bit too violent prompting the Secret Service to arrive with a couple of quick gun shots to save the President. The entire sequence becomes ridiculous right through Whitney’s escape. Absolute Power simply never finds its center of gravity. 
     There are too many holes to cover up with action and not enough action in Absolute Power. The languorous pace provides the viewer with too much time to assay the wrong turns and improbabilities of the film. Abuse of power is difficult enough to present in fresh terms, but dealing without a core of reality from the very beginning makes this thriller a tough meal of a movie to swallow. Still, it is mostly entertaining if you don’t stop to think too long. 
       Eastwood’s character of Luther Whitney  is the best element of Absolute Power and Eastwood does a typically good job of making the character sympathetic and laconically dangerous. But the script serves Eastwood a difficult role in which to find truth. Whitney’s arrogant obviousness to danger does not serve the film well. It seems the master burglar can appear at will under any circumstances. His brash meeting with his daughter serves no purpose at all except to display the script’s desperation to create excitement. Whitney blithely walks into a trap and miraculously escapes two sniper bullets from totally different angles. That’s the kind of stuff that saps the tension from Absolute Power. 
      Eastwood directs himself and his actors well. The script by screenwriting legend William Goldman lets them all down. The director has set in place all the elements for a terrific film. Jack Green’s camera moves with menace and captures the action from a confident lens. Lennie Niehaus provides an excellent score that adds powerfully to the image. Director Eastwood could have been a little tougher on the flow on the film. He seems reluctant to trim his film with the cold eye  of earlier works.  
      Alongside Eastwood, Gene Hackman can’t take the cliche out of  President Alan Richmond. Judy Davis has the impossible task of finding any reality in White House Chief of Staff Gloria Russell. Ed Harris brings his mark of reliability to investigating detective Seth Frank, but has to try too hard to make something of the romantic sub-plot. 
     The anamorphic widescreen transfer makes Absolute Power a great looking DVD. Dark scenes have a sparkle to them. Sunshine shines. Resolution is maximized by the anamorphic treatment. You can look into the pupils of the actors eyes. Too bad there’s little to be discovered behind the camera boundaries.  Color is flawless, tightly bound in ever scene. The 5:1 Dolby Digital surround has excellent range. Music and dialogue are in perfect balance and effects blend well, maximizing their impact.