A retired FBI profiler is sucked back into service when he discovers the key to tracking a ruthless serial killer involves his recent heart transplant.
FBI agent Terry McCaleb (Clint Eastwood) is one of the bureau's top profilers. He is tracking a particularly nasty serial killer who likes to challenge the agent to come find him with the personalized messages and encoded clues he leaves behind. After investigating a gruesome crime scene, McCaleb spots the killer in the crowd and runs after him, but suffers a near-fatal heart attack during the chase. Cut to two years later--a now-retired McCaleb has a new lease on life, having received a heart transplant from someone with his rare blood type. Now here comes the twist--his new heart belonged to a woman who was shot in cold blood in a convenience store, and the murdered woman's sister, Graciela (Wanda De Jesus), wants McCaleb to find her killer. Feelings of guilt wash over him as he begins to uncover the truth, and with the help of his neighbor Buddy (Jeff Daniels), he follows a trail of blood work that leads to the bad guy. The script's flaw is in the predictable ending, which, coming after an interesting and somewhat intelligent build-up, seems flat and anticlimactic.
OK, for all his familiar grimacing and badass attitude, Eastwood is finally showing his age. This isn't to say the 72-year-old actor/director is not a commanding presence on screen, but at least he knows he can't be Dirty Harry forever. The fact that McCaleb is handicapped from the beginning gives his tough-cop persona an element of vulnerability, especially when he undergoes painful hospital tests (with Anjelica Huston as his doctor, no less). But of course, Eastwood isn't going play the old man completely, and still manages to shoot guns, run around and even get a little action between the sheets. The women in the film are also a refreshing change of pace for a cop thriller. De Jesus plays Graciela with a quiet determination and mature sensuality, and it seems natural she and McCaleb would get together. Also quite good is Tina Lifford as Detective Jaye Winston, someone from McCaleb's past, who helps him solve the crime. You can see she and McCaleb once had a history together and she too, seems to naturally fit into her role. And then there's Jeff Daniels--so good to see him again. He does a nice job as Buddy, who has the outwardly appearance of being a shiftless loser but is hiding something a little darker. The one annoying performance comes from comedian Paul Rodriguez as a local police officer who hates McCaleb for some reason. He throws in lot of funny one-liners, but he seems to have no real purpose in the film other than comic relief.
Based on a novel by Michael Connelly, the screenplay is nicely crafted by Oscar-winning screenwriter Brian Helgeland (L.A. Confidential), and for the most part, Blood Work works like a giant but fairly uncomplicated puzzle. Much like his persona on screen, Eastwood's a straightforward director--no pussyfooting around. He's never cared much for fancy camera work or finding the perfect shot and this film goes by the numbers as far as its pacing and camerawork. Blood Work is a simple film--all the pieces are carefully laid out for you, step by step, until it's time to put it together, though it becomes a tad predictable in the end. Eastwood surrounds himself with good talent, and in this case, brings out some realistic performances from his female co-stars. Although there are probably many out there who think Eastwood is getting a little too old to keep making these movies, he obviously could care less. He knows he'll draw in diehard fans who want to see a more classic cop whodunit. But as far as attracting any of the younger audiences, it isn't going to happen.
The classic and simplistic style of Blood Work should bring in the Clint Eastwood fans, but the film has no way of beating the high-powered summer films already out there.