The Rookie (1990) / Action-Thriller
MPAA Rated: R for strong violence, sexuality and language
Running Time: 121 min.
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Charlie Sheen, Raul Julia, Sonia Braga, Tom Skerritt, Lara Flynn Boyle, Pepe Serna, Marco Rodriguez, Pete Randall, Donna Mitchell, Xander Berkeley
Director: Clint Eastwood
Screenplay: Boaz Yakin, Scott Spiegel
Eastwood may be a well respected director these days, crafting such Academy Award winners as Unforgiven, Mystic River, and Million Dollar Baby, but he has made a few duds in his time as well. Anyone remember Firefox? True Crime? Absolute Power? Blood Work? If you do, don't you kinda wish you didn't?
The Rookie was Eastwood's attempt to direct a buddy cop flick, very much in the vein of 48 Hrs. and Lethal Weapon. He didn't succeed. The primary reason stems from the fact that those movies had good chemistry, clever dialogue, and a real sense of irreverence that made the banter between the characters infectious. The Rookie simulates the feel of banter without actually having the depth of characterizations to make us feel we truly know these guys as anything but one-dimensional archetypes. It also doesn't help that the script by Boaz Yakin (The Punisher) and Scott Spiegel (Evil Dead II) is mounted on an insipid plot.
This plot concerns an underground organization of car thieves, led by a German named Strom (Julia, Presumed Innocent), who steal the best of cars, dismantle them in the local chop shops, and then sell them to the highest bidders. Eastwood plays Nick Pulovski, a down-and-out cop on the grand theft auto beat, that just lost his partner in a bust of Strom's latest catch. Pulovski is pulled off the case now that it belongs to homicide, but he is still hell-bent in his determination to take Strom down. Nick is assigned a hotshot rookie detective, an impeccably gifted but very green new guy named David Ackerman (Sheen, Major League), who knows his stuff, but has had a lifelong bout of freezing up when situations become tense.
The Rookie is a truly poor movie, made almost acceptable because of Eastwood's dry humor and a few memorable scenes. It is gratuitously violent and highly sensationalized, although perfectly in keeping with the kinds of action movies churned out by Hollywood during these years. It does feature an interesting array of actors, although some of them are not really cast well. Most notable in this regard is Raul Julia, who does make for an intelligent and charismatic adversary, but his underwritten role suffers greatly by the fact that his Latino-flavored accent is too strong to buy him as a German, no matter how many "zese", "zose", and "zem"s he utters liberally. Sonia Braga (Angel Eyes, Empire) doesn't even bother trying.
Luckily for us in the audience, Eastwood realizes just how ridiculous the premise of the film is, so he decides to have fun with the project, sending it wildly over the top during certain moments for some tongue-in-cheek laughs. Perhaps he should have just made the entire thing a complete lark and stripped out all pretense of seriousness, and we might be looking at a better film here.
The one complaint about Eastwood as a director that has managed to stick with him throughout his career is his lack of ability to squeeze out the excess in his films down to a traditional running length, and at over two hours, The Rookie is a good twenty minutes longer than it really needed to be. Most scenes go on longer than necessary, and some exist for no real reason at all, to the detriment of the overall momentum,
For all of its flaws and excesses, The Rookie might still provide a decent evening's worth of entertainment for Eastwood's fans (like myself) and those that love bloody, comical cop action films of any variety. Some guilty pleasure entertainment may certainly be had, provided you take it about as serious as Eastwood intended, which is to say, not at all.
©2006 Vince Leo