It's only fair to mention at the outset that I am extremely partial to the films of Clint Eastwood. I've liked him ever since the spaghetti Westerns of the mid-sixties. Thus, I went into Tightrope favorably disposed, despite the fact that his last three films (Sudden Impact, Honkeytonk Man, and Firefox) weren't very good. In my opinion, Tightrope makes up for a lot of that.
Clint's a cop again, but Block doesn't have much in common with Dirty Harry Callaghan. He works homicide in New Orleans, apparently specializing in sex-related crimes. His wife has deserted him, leaving behind their two daughters. When Block is assigned to investigate several stranglings of women involved with seamy sexual activities, the job begins to spill over into his personal life. His sexual frustrations find outlets in modestly kinky ways with prostitutes and swingers. By day, he's a fine father and cop, by night he prowls around the seedier parts of New Orleans, dividing his time between looking for the killer and releasing his sexual frustrations. An additional twist comes into play. The killer starts preying on Block's sexual partners. In fact, he's been following Block around, without the latter knowing it. The murders begin to resemble, more and more, a personal feud with Block.
The film is light on violence. There are a couple of fairly savage fights, but this isn't one of those films where Eastwood goes around blasting ever villain in sight. Not only is there a single villain, but Block really isn't that type of a guy. He works more with his mind than with his gun. (In fact, there seems to have been a great deal of care taken to ensure that Eastwood's character is thoroughly distinguishable from Dirty Harry.) Tightrope is much more a mood piece, and a moderately successful one. This is in large part due to screenwriter/director Richard Tuggle. This is his first time as director, and he demonstrates that he knows how it's done. He may never be a great director, but he has some talent. (Eastwood has probably given more directors their first break than anyone still around, except, of course, Roger Corman.)
Clint Eastwood is quite good as Block. I think that Eastwood is somewhat underrated as an actor. Admittedly, his range is limited, but he is able to do fine work within that range, and he can project certain qualities better than anyone else. Eastwood is the ultimate Man You Shouldn't Mess With. Here, he tries a harder role, and even those who don't care for him should give him points for taking a chance on something different. Genevieve Bujold is given a functional part as the head of a rape clinic who is understandably concerned about the murders. She does what she can with it. Alison Eastwood, Clint Eastwood's real life daughter, is quite good as the elder of his screen daughters.
I won't claim that this is a truly outstanding film, but it's a good, solid piece of work, likely to please those who want a little more from a film than standard police thrillers give. The key here is a little. Tightrope isn't going to appeal much to those who demand serious movies, and it isn't likely to change the mind of someone who hates Clint Eastwood. Rather, it is a good example of what should really be, and unfortunately isn't, the standard for Hollywood films: adept, professional, and entertaining.
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