Remember when Clint Eastwood was edgy?
Tightrope (1984) was so edgy and sexual that it made me uncomfortable. This is not the kind of movie I expected from Clint Eastwood, and he pushed the envelope at every opportunity, but it went beyond just displaying some character. The whole movie seems to take chances. Eastwood plays a character named Wes Block, who is a character the polar opposite from Dirty Harry. He still squints and seems offended all the time, but now Eastwood’s archetype has some emotional problems.
Eastwood plays Block with a sort of uptight restraint that is familiar to Dirty Harry fans, but his problems and feelings of isolation make him a sympathetic character. Additionally, his wife left him and he has two kids. We’re not talking about a picture on a desk. We actually get to spend time with the kids and Block acts like a father.
He also has his weaknesses. Of course, there’s the obligatory drinking too much scene, but he frequents the Red Light district and that wouldn’t be a problem, except that’s where a serial killer goes too. He begins to target the ladies Eastwood spends “time” with, and it starts to look like a vendetta against him personally. Eastwood squints some more in response.
Geneviève Bujold plays Beryl, who is trying to figure Block out. She’s a rape counselor and trainer, who is involved in the serial killer case, because the killer keeps raping, murdering and disposing of more women. She has a good scene with Eastwood toward the end of the movie, and I think she does alright. She has a character and fits the themes of the movie.
It’s sort of disappointing to see your film hero with so many cracks in his armor. It’d be one thing if he had the kids and the divorce, but he’s got to be a sexual deviant too, who uses handcuffs on women. There’s at least five or six moments I can think of where the film shows sexual themes and Block certainly likes walking through brothels. Eastwood took a chance with this movie to contrast his usual film appearances, and you’ve got to respect that.
The killer in this movie is a one-dimensional psycho. He’s doesn’t have much to do except stalk women and stand there silently in a mask. I would probably have to say that if this is Eastwood’s edgy, sexual thriller, than In the Line of Fire (1993) is the cerebral counterpart. I’m only reminded of that movie because the villain played by John Malkovich is more two-dimensional than the cardboard cutout Eastwood chases after in Tightrope. Eastwood unmasks the killer at the end like it’s Scooby-Doo, which is not very satisfying. Malkovich has a better send-off.
Overall, this is an average movie, but it is striking and has a good pace. Because of the content, it is serious and has definite, rated R themes. That doesn’t make it bad, just different. There’s only so much range Clint Eastwood has, so deviating from the formula only works for so long before it becomes strange, but there’s still gun-shooting, car chases, and snappy dialogue for the action lovers. The critics liked this movie for taking chances and showing something different, which I agree with. It kept me watching to see how different it was going to get, but Eastwood was still there squinting at the threats.