4 July 2018 | ElMaruecan82
Kind of films that know what to deliver to audiences that know what to expect...
"The Rookie" takes me back to the early 90s when thrillers and action pictures were all set aside for Sunday night, and from time to time, I was allowed to enjoy the movie with my Dad. Give me a few seconds to embrace the nostalgia...
And I remember when I saw good old Clint Eastwood in his car, watching carjackers loading a whole semi-trailer with their recent (and valuable) "purchases", I had but one certitude in mind: his partner would better have a last puff on his buddy's cigars because he'd soon become another "dead on duty" statistic. He wasn't a few days from retirement but he was old, he was Black and well, as Roger Ebert pointed out, the film's title doesn't make you expect a "dazzling work of originality". But I didn't know Ebert at that time, only my classics.
So naturally, the man was shot from behind by the grand theft mastermind, a German (!?) mustached villain played by the late Raul Julia. Of course, it made the matter more personal for Nick Puvloski, a fine and shameless ersatz of Dirty Harry. Did I groan for such a lack of originality from the start? Well, I guess I just enjoyed the chase across the expressway and I knew the film would provide the shot of adrenalin we all expected for a Sunday Night. Of course, Nick doesn't get the villain, but he makes him lose the precious loot, creating another 'personal' grudge on the other side... and the next day, he's assigned a new partner, a young detective named David Ackerman.
The set-up was predictable and the rest of the story was swimming in familiar waters: a tense relationship between the old street-smart cop and the sensitive rookie played by Charlie Sheen, bargains with snitches, television kicked by the bad guy, the sexy villainess, and the spectacular stunts. I didn't see the film for years but my memory wasn't blurry at all, I still had enough scenes stuck in my mind to have it filed in the "memorable films" compartment. I remember Sonia Braga shooting David in the back with that "amateur" line (the ad made me expect he would die for real), I remember David again, getting smoke on his face from a condescending bartender and a few scenes later, returning the favor back with a slightly disproportionate retribution, the spectacularly explosive stunt, natch... and I also liked the final touch at the end with the initial scene being Xeroxed almost line from line.
So when the film ended, we knew it wasn't a masterpiece but we didn't care, we had our share of fun and I gladly saw the re-run a few days later. I was aware of Clint Eastwood's reputation of course and I enjoyed his presence and his interactions with Sheen, but it was long before I became a movie buff, more familiar with his best work and capable to discern between such movies as "The Rookie" and other more valuable achievements. A few years after, on another Sunday night, "A Perfect World" was aired and I was capable to realize that this film played in another league. And we can say in totally objective terms that "The Rookie" doesn't reinvent the wheel, doesn't recreate the same chemistry that made the "Lethal Weapon" series and that it's one of Eastwood's lesser films... but even with that regard, the flaws are still enjoyable to say the least. Don't they call that a guilty pleasure?
I think it says it all. Watching it again, I knew I was supposed to cringe many times. I was surprised to see how wooden and emotionless Sheen played his character, does he have a cramp on his lips that prevents him from smiling from time to time? I was also surprised by Pepe Serna, the ill-fated Tony Montana's drug-deal partner in "Scarface", there was just something in his voice and accent that didn't quite match the lines he was supposed to shout. I was also surprised by how underused Julia and Braga were. These two Latin actors don't need many lines of dialogues to exude their talent (and Braga was an unforgettable femme fatale) but I wish there was some depth added to their relationship, that would have made that 'rape' scene less gratuitous at least. It was also fun to see these guys working for Puvloski and Storm (or Strom?) getting bullets in retribution, talk about insisting that crime doesn't pay. I was also disappointed by the way David's backstory didn't quite add up to his character... precisely because he doesn't even save Nick's ass.
The film had so many flaws I lost track... but my presumption is that Eastwood did it for the money in the way that you honor a command, I read that he had to make a movie for Warner Bros and maybe after two art-house films ("White Hunter, Black Heart" and "Bird") he decided to loosen up a bit and have fun. I'm fine with his idea of having fun and at least, you can tell he put quite a budget, judging by the impressive quality of the stunts work. But there's a reason the film didn't quite take off with the box-office although it was a mild success, it's not because it faced the competition of "Home Alone" because action pictures like "Total Recall" or "Die Hard 2" did better, so maybe it had to be a not so good word-of-mouth. But it was still good enough to deliver what was expected to an audience who knew what to expect.
It could be better given its talented director and its set of villains, it's unfortunate that they had to put so much effort on the hardest part and not tried to densify the story a little, but I'll end with the same nostalgic tone that opened this review, "The Rookie" wasn't a theater film but the perfect movie to rent in VHS for a fun Saturday afternoon.