24 February 2000 | chrstphrtully
Well-made psychological thriller.
Of all of Clint Eastwood's performances, this is probably my favourite. In this part, Eastwood gives his character enormous depth and vulnerability, and touches on the insecurities and weaknesses that drive an otherwise normal man into sexual deviance. All of this he does in the guise of one of his most well-worn characters -- a police detective out after a psychopathic killer. Unlike the "Dirty Harry" pictures or "The Gauntlet", in which Eastwood only suggested the existence of human weakness, here that weakness is interwoven with the plot (in which the psychopath knows and manipulates the detective's weakness for deviant sex), heightening the tension.
What makes the film all the more impressive is that it doesn't dwell exclusively on the deviant side of Eastwood's personality. That would be the easy way out. Instead, it counterbalances that aspect of his character with some nice family moments, making sure to let the audience know (and convincingly at that) that this is a man who truly does have more than one side to him.
The acting from the supporting players is fine, although most of them (namely, Genevieve Bujold and Dan Hedaya) are given little to do. Perhaps the most surprising discovery from the film is the performance of Eastwood's daughter Alison, who gives an exceptional performance as the detective's daughter, who senses something is not quite right with her father, but loves him just the same.
The film is not without flaws -- Tuggle's script skips a couple of grooves in the plausibility category (namely, when certain characters have to be killed off), and there are a few gaps in the script. All told, however, Tuggle's direction is strong, using dimly lit sets for more than just noirish effect, and building up to a very strong finale. Moreover, his scriptwriting flaws can be excused because of the strong and full character he creates.
This is a film in which Eastwood creates a character not unlike that in his superb performance in "In the Line of Fire." All the same, it is a performance that in a weaker Oscar year might have been worthy of an Oscar nomination.