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1 review, 8 user ratings

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by Jack Sommersby

"A Sometimes-Fascinating Serial-Killer Thriller"
3 stars

Earning a healthy $48 million take at the box office 22 years ago, this flawed but involving Eastwood thriller is worthy of seeking out.

In Richard Tuggle's serial-killer thriller Tightrope, Clint Eastwood delivers one of his best performances as Wes Block, a New Orleans detective investigating a series of sadistic sex murders in the French Quarter. All of the victims were attractive, promiscuous, and, more importantly, recent sexual conquests of Block's. Block, a recently divorced man with two young daughters at home, is sexually frustrated and has taken a liking to rough and kinky sex; in essence, the killer is acting as Block's violent Id, and with each new corpse the killer is getting closer and closer to him. Along the way, Block strikes up an interesting relationship with a rape counselor (played by Genevieve Bujold), whose up-frontness breaks through Block's guarded manner and puts a mirror up to him, and he doesn't like what he sees. Soon, Block begins questioning his own moral sanity, with the unnerving knowledge that he and the killer are alike in more ways he'd care to admit. The film is chock-full of color and texture, and the suspense sequences are well-engineered by debuting director Tuggle, who also wrote Eastwood's prison-break drama Escape From Alcatraz. He has a talent for conjuring up and sustaining expressive mood, with Bruce Surtees' ultra-dark lighting more reminiscent of film noir than anything in recent memory. He isn't the greatest with pacing in light of a middle section that tends to drag yet demonstrates an undeniable eye for composition. As a writer, he's not quite as commendable. While the police-procedural details are interesting and the dialogue especially good (when asked if the full moon brings the crazies out, Block answers, "It always has."), he has Block do some fairly unintelligent things just to keep the plot moving, like letting someone just walk into a warehouse to meet the killer rather than calling for back-up and surrounding the place. And while Tightrope is never less than absorbing, Tuggle doesn't flesh out the central idea of doppelganger recognition between his hero and villain -- Block never digs deep inside to project himself into the killer's mind to anticipate his next move. Banal sexual metaphors hinder things, too: a woman sucking on a red Popcicle and foam overflowing out of beer bottles are thrown in with the subtlety of a sledgehammer. But the film, while imperfect, manages to grip from start to finish, and it benefits from some truly outstanding location shooting and a three-dimensional hero in Block, whom Eastwood plays with sincerity and conviction. He's open in a way Dirty Harry could never be and certainly less reliant on a gun to resolve matters (he fires only two shots, and he misses). Eastwood isn't able to bring the amount of shading to the character that a more talented actor could, and at fifty-four he's perhaps a bit too old for the role, but he keeps Block lived-in and believable, and thus is able to glide over some occasional cop-movie cliches that abound. He's quite good, and so, despite some disappointments, is Tightrope.

Letterboxed for the first time on home video, the film boasts an attractive 1.85:1 DVD transfer and a really nice audio mix. No special features excepting a theatrical trailer, but for a fine-sounding and -looking transfer, that's enough.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=4907&reviewer=327
originally posted: 07/11/06 14:50:30
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User Comments

7/24/12 keith miron Slow moving, with nudity and sleeze 2 stars
9/27/07 mr.mike quite good 4 stars
8/23/06 David Pollastrini a great first for Alison Eastwood 3 stars
7/14/06 michael better than what you would see on TV 4 stars
5/07/03 R.W. Welch Interesting departure from type for Eastwood, but not a real gripper. 3 stars
12/28/02 Jack Sommersby Compelling but very flawed. 3 stars
10/23/02 Charles Tatum Good character study 4 stars
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  02-Apr-1984 (R)



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