[Screen It]


(1999) (Clint Eastwood, Isaiah Washington) (R)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Moderate Moderate Extreme Moderate Heavy
Mild None Moderate None Extreme
Smoking Tense Family
Topics To
Talk About
Heavy Moderate Heavy Moderate Heavy

Drama: A down-and-out reporter investigates the facts regarding a soon-to-be executed murderer and then races against time to prevent the sentence from being carried out.
Steve Everett (CLINT EASTWOOD) is a near washed up reporter for the Oakland Tribune whose recent alcoholism and womanizing ways not only keep him in hot water with his editor, Bob Findley (DENIS LEARY), whose wife he's seeing on the side, but also with his own wife Barbara (DIANE VENORA) who's just about had it with her husband's behavior and having little time for their young daughter, Kate (FRANCESCA FISHER-EASTWOOD).

Steve gets his chance at partial redemption when a young, fellow co-worker, Michelle Ziegler (MARY MCCORMACK) dies in an auto accident and he's assigned her story. It turns out she was following the case of Frank Beachum (ISAIAH WASHINGTON), a man awaiting to be executed that very day for killing a pregnant convenience store clerk some six years earlier.

Assigned by Bob -- who despises Steve but hasn't fired him only because the old reporter goes way back with the paper's head editor, Alan Mann (JAMES WOODS) -- to do a "human interest sidebar story" about the last hours of this man's life, Steve starts investigating the case. Learning that the man was convicted on little evidence and shaky eyewitness accounts, Steve starts digging deeper hoping to uncover anything that might save the man who still claims his innocense.

As Frank's wife, Bonnie (LISA GAY HAMILTON), and their young girl Gail (PENNY RAE BRIDGES) visit him for what may be the last time, Steve races against the clock trying to save the man before Warden Luther Plunkitt (BERNARD HILL) and his team execute him.

If they're fans of Eastwood or someone else in the cast, maybe, but otherwise it's doubtful many kids will want to see this film.
For language and some violence.
  • CLINT EASTWOOD plays a married reporter and former alcoholic (although he drinks and drives toward the end of the film) who smokes, cusses and cheats on his wife.
  • ISAIAH WASHINGTON plays a man convicted (correctly or not) of murdering a pregnant woman and must deal with his upcoming execution.
  • JAMES WOODS plays Steve's boss who cusses some and makes jokes about him sleeping with Bob's wife.
  • DENIS LEARY plays Steve's uptight assignment editor who doesn't like Steve, particularly when he discovers that he's sleeping with his wife.
  • DIANE VENORA plays Steve's wife who eventually kicks him out of the house after putting up with his indiscretions/behavior for too long.


    OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
    Up until its final ten minutes or so, and despite the presence of Clint Eastwood in front of and behind the camera, "True Crime" is truly boring. A tired retreading of cliched characters and an overly familiar "the clock's ticking against the con on death row" story, one can only assume that some potential was present at one point concerning this production. Nonetheless, so many similar stories have been done so often before -- and with much more compelling results -- that this one significantly pales in comparison.

    Based on the novel by Andrew Klavan (that's adapted by screenwriters Larry Gross ("48 Hours"), Paul Brickman ("Risky Business") and Stephen Schiff ("The Deep End of the Ocean"), and as helmed by Eastwood ("Unforgiven," "The Bridges of Madison County") in his twenty-first outing in the director's chair, the film never feels as if it were properly allowed to gel or ripen.

    While we understand that the film is intentionally more of a character study than a "save the doomed man" story, the latter seems more of a plot contrivance/catalyst -- where the "hero" gets to redeem himself by trying to save the day -- and thus feels rather shortchanged. Along the way, the dialogue often feels similarly contrived and forced, and beyond a few fun scenes between Eastwood and James Woods (who plays his boss), the film never feels like it hits its stride or manages to develop a natural rhythm.

    Most of that's due to the way the protagonist is drawn as well as his subsequent behavior and attitude. While it's occasionally refreshing to see characters who aren't perfect heroes -- and thus come off a bit more like everyday folk -- Eastwood's adulterous, recently alcoholic and overall S.O.B. character is taken to such an extreme that it takes the audience more than a while to get behind his efforts/goal.

    That, when combined with the fact that the film's momentum remains unfocused and clearly unhurried throughout most of its duration -- at least until the very end and despite a general plot description that would suggest otherwise -- ends up creating an odd effect. Although we're obviously supposed to be increasingly nervous and apprehensive about whether Eastwood will be able to save this man's life, the feeling audiences will most likely experience instead is frustration.

    Of course it doesn't help that this loser character -- whose sole catalyst to intervene is his nose that can smell when something stinks -- has no concrete plan of action. While that wouldn't be surprising for any normal person in real life -- and is possibly done to purposefully frustrate the audience (although I don't know what benefit would come of that) -- the fact that his character stumbles into solutions instead of actively generating them demeans why most of us go to the movies in the first place.

    Any of us could stumble into accidentally saving the day. What we want is the hero -- no matter his or her personal flaws and the seemingly insurmountable obstacles he or she faces -- who figures out how to actively and/or cleverly solve the dilemma. When Eastwood happens upon a crucial, but elusive piece of information in another person's house within seconds of starting his search, those at our screening could not contain their heckle-filled disbelief.

    Had the story gone more of the conspiracy route with Eastwood's young co-worker being killed because she was getting too close to the truth (which leads to him getting the assignment), him then likewise uncovering the hidden/glossed over facts (which would explain how he could do as much so fast when others couldn't do the same over a matter of months), and then having him accused of her death (since he's an adulterous, unlikable character and to get him off the case), all of it might have been more believable. As it stands, however, much of the story is often quite preposterous.

    The film's only redeeming quality is with its performances, although the old "love Eastwood/tolerate or dislike Eastwood" bias will undoubtedly influence one's reaction. Playing the flawed lead character, Eastwood ("The Bridges of Madison County," "Dirty Harry") does create some nice subtleties that give character depth. While he never makes him that much of a likeable or empathetic guy, at least Eastwood keeps him interesting.

    Isaiah Washington ("Out of Sight," "Bulworth"), despite unfortunately being relegated to more of a supporting character, is quite good as the man facing what may be an unjustified, but seemingly inevitable death. The traditional supporting roles are all strong, including Diane Venora ("The Jackal," "Heat") and Lisa Gay Hamilton ("Beloved," "Jackie Brown") as the wives with different views of their husbands, but James Woods ("Ghosts of Mississippi," "Contact") as Eastwood's rascally boss clearly steals the show.

    While we it's not that difficult to realize that the picture seems more interested in telling the reporter's story and uses the con on death row subplot as a comparative and perhaps even symbolic device between the troubled men -- which even includes their wives and little girls -- the end result isn't that great or even compelling.

    Without the power of the thematically similar "Dead Man Walking" (Sean Penn, Susan Sarandon) and featuring a generally unlikable protagonist and his slipshod course of action, the film is likely to frustrate and/or try the patience of fans of traditional Hollywood fare as well as those who've admired Eastwood's more memorable movies and characters.

    Although having a down and out character face seemingly insurmountable obstacles as well as a ticking clock -- all with a man's life hanging on the line -- sounds exciting and filled with potential, you may be surprised -- at least until the predictable, stereotypical ending when the pace finally picks up -- just how uneventful the picture turns out and how uninvolved the audience will be. We certainly were, and thus give "True Crime" just a 3 out of 10.

    Here's a quick summary of the content found in this R-rated film. Profanity is extreme with 30+ "f" words being uttered during the movie, along with other profanities and colorful phrases. Some sexually related discussions occur, with most related to Eastwood's character sleeping with his boss' wife, and we see them in bed with some glimpses of her in her underwear after they've spent the night together.

    As such, Eastwood's adulterous, sorry family man character has extreme bad attitudes, as does the person who shoots and kills a pregnant convenience store clerk (which is seen in various real and imagined views complete with blood). Eastwood's character smokes, is reported to be a recovering alcoholic, and he gets drunk and drives in a later scene.

    The whole issue of the death penalty and the subsequent race against the clock to save a man who's set to be executed may be disturbing and/or suspenseful to some viewers. Due to all of that, you may want to take a closer look at the content that's been listed should you still be concerned about the film's appropriateness for you or someone else in your home.

  • Steve and a young female reporter have drinks in a bar (although his are non-alcoholic due to him being a recovering alcoholic). Later, she drives away and gets into a fatal, one-car accident that may have been somewhat caused by the alcohol.
  • We see a quick flashback of Frank's mother who may be smoking a joint (or a plain cigarette).
  • One of Steve's co-workers shows him a bottle and asks if he wants "a nip" (Steve refuses).
  • A grandmother says that her teenage/young adult grandson was using drugs (but she may be doing so facetiously).
  • Some people drink in a bar and we then see that Steve has resumed drinking. As such, he's had a few, and then stumbles to the door and drives away after learning of some important information.
  • Steve's daughter has some small cuts on her face after he accidentally spills her from a cart onto the pavement at a zoo.
  • In a flashback we see the dead clerk on the floor and both she and Frank are somewhat bloody, and then see another flashback where he tries to revive her and that's how he gets her blood all over him.
  • Steve's nose is a tiny bit bloody after he drunkenly walks into a door.
  • We see a needle going into an arm, and later see some blood pour out from the same location.
  • Steve has both for having extramarital affairs -- one with his assignment editor's wife (who obviously also has both).
  • The person who killed the pregnant clerk obviously has both.
  • A homeless man verbally accosts women who pass by telling them that he wants some "p*ssy."
  • We learn that a witness lied about what he saw, and later hear that a priest lied about Frank confessing to the murder.
  • Trying to fulfill his promise of taking his young daughter to the zoo, but still meet his work requirements, Steve puts her in cart and races her through the zoo, eventually accidentally dumping her onto the pavement and cutting her face.
  • The prison warden makes a comment about Steve's butt not being up to par with that of a previous young female reporter.
  • Some viewers may not like it when Steve responds to Frank stating he's religious by saying, "I don't give a rat's ass about Jesus Christ...or (about what's) right or wrong..."
  • Steve breaks into someone's home looking for evidence.
  • The whole issue of the death penalty may be unnerving to some viewers, as might the moments leading up to Frank's scheduled execution.
  • There's talk that Frank shot and killed a pregnant clerk and we then see several flashbacks of him finding her already fatally wounded, of him trying to revive her and getting blood all over him, and of another man coming in, holding a gun on her while robbing the place, and then accidentally shooting her.
  • Steve races to try to stop Frank's execution as we see the lethal injection process getting under way.
  • Handgun: Seen in several flashbacks that suggest what happened as someone shot a clerk.
  • Phrases: "Bumf*ck," "Banging" and "Boning" (for sex), "Sh*t for brains," "Sack of sh*t," "Jack sh*t," "Give me head" (oral sex), "Geez," "Broad" (for a woman), "Scumbag," "Bastard," "Fart," "I don't give a rat's ass about..." "Shut up," "Loser" and "Screws up."
  • Steve throws his cigarette out the window (littering).
  • Alan gives the gesture for male masturbation.
  • Trying to stop Frank's execution, Steve drives to several locations while drunk and leads the police on a high speed chase while doing so.
  • None.
  • A moderate amount of suspenseful music plays during the film.
  • None.
  • At least 33 "f" words (1 used with "mother" and 3 used sexually as are the terms "banging" and "boning"), 18 "s" words, 9 slang terms for female genitals ("p*ssy"), 2 slang terms for male genitals ("pr*ck" and what sounded like "c*ck"), 1 slang term for breasts ("t*ts"), 11 asses (6 used with "hole"), 6 hells, 3 damns, 2 craps, 2 S.O.B.'s, and 11 uses of "G-damn," 4 of "Jesus," 3 each of "Oh my God," "God" and "Oh God," and 1 use each of "My God," "Oh Lord," "Oh Jesus," "For Christ's sakes," "Jesus Christ" and "Christ" as exclamations.
  • While flirting with a young female reporter, Steve, who later kisses her, comments on drinking a "Virgin Mary" and says, "I'll have a Virgin Mary...with heavy on the virgin" (something of a double entendre).
  • Alan comments that people like to read about "sex organs and blood," but that newspapers make up issues disguising them so that people don't feel guilty about that.
  • We see Steve in bed with Bob's wife, apparently after having had sex. She's wearing a negligee, and at one point we see the side of her mostly bare butt and then her with her legs spread and see her underwear as well as some pubic hair (this is after he kisses her on her bare hip). He also talks about getting caught in a supply room with another woman sometime in the past.
  • A homeless man verbally accosts women who pass by telling them that he wants some "p*ssy."
  • A woman in a convenience store shows some cleavage in the outfit she wears.
  • The prison warden makes a comment about Steve's butt not being up to par with that of a previous young female reporter.
  • Alan tells Steve, "Stop f*cking Bob's wife. He doesn't like it." Moments later, he offhandedly asks Steve, "How was she?" and he replies "None of your damn business" but then adds, "Not bad." Alan then asks Steve, "Did I ever tell you about the assistant D.A. I was banging in New York?"
  • Alan then tells Steve that he's glad he's "banging" Bob's wife because it now gives Bob a reason to fire him. He then adds, "You should have f*cked my wife" stating that he would have just punched him, causing Steve to say, "I did f*ck your wife." Alan asks, "Was she good?" and Steve says, "Yeah, a real wildcat." Later, Alan finally says "You won't have to bone his wife..." because he'll just fire him over a story, and then asks again (about Bob's wife), "Was she any good?"
  • Joking about a woman in their office, one of Steve's co-workers says that he'll get Steve some coffee "if you give me head" (oral sex).
  • Confronting Bob, Steve tells him, "You can go home and hit your wife, because she likes it."
  • Steve smokes more than five times, while Frank smokes a few times.
  • Steve's multiple problems -- alcoholism, having affairs, not fulfilling his promises to his daughter -- puts a strain on his marriage and his wife eventually kicks him out.
  • Obviously Frank's pending execution puts a strain on his wife and young daughter, as well as him, especially when they have to say good-bye for what looks like the last time.
  • The death penalty.
  • People who have affairs.
  • A woman gets into a one person car accident and dies from her injuries (we only see the wrecked car).
  • A woman hits a homeless man with her bags after he verbally accosts her.
  • There's talk that Frank shot and killed a pregnant clerk and we then see several flashbacks of him finding her already fatally wounded, or of another man coming in, holding a gun on her while robbing the place, and then accidentally shooting her.
  • Steve's daughter has some small cuts on her face after he accidentally spills her from a cart onto the pavement at a zoo.
  • A character mentions that another character was stabbed to death several years earlier.

  • Reviewed March 12, 1999 / Posted March 19, 1999

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