Political Film Society - Newsletter #143 - September 10, 2002

September 10, 2002


Blood WorkClint Eastwood personifies a police officer who relentlessly pursues criminals. In Blood Work, which he directs at the age of 72 based on the novel by Michael Connelly, he risks his life in the role of elderly FBI agent Terry McCaleb. When the film begins, he is at a crime scene where his name and a nine-digit number are crayoned onto cardboard as a serial killer's calling card. On leaving the scene, he spots someone suspicious, who suddenly runs, and chases him without backup until he has a heart attack. He then retires from the FBI for medical reasons, buys a boat, makes his home in San Pedro harbor, and awaits a heart donor to match his unusual blood type. Two years later, he finally receives the transplant, but soon Graciella Rivers (played by Wanda de Jesus) visits him in his boat to ask his help in apprehending her sister's killer. At first uninterested in her request, she informs him that his heart donor was her sister, and he agrees. At first he tries to get assistance from LAPD detective Ronaldo Durango (played by Paul Rodriguez), the one who did not provide backup during the chase, but the response is negative and rude. McCaleb then approaches officer Jaye Winston (played by Tina Lifford), who attributes her promotion in the County Sheriff's office to his help in solving an earlier case. (Meanwhile, he has blood work done, to check on the status of his transplanted heart.) After reviewing tapes of the crime scene in the convenience store where Graciella's sister was murdered and visiting the scene of the crime, he finds a connection with a similar case where the murder victim died before an emergency ambulance arrived. He also discovers that the 911 call was placed before the murder. The inference is that the murderer was deliberately trying to kill someone so that the victim's heart could be transplanted into someone's body. Someone, in other words, hacked into a medical website to find out all those with a certain blood type. Thus the killer stalked and shot Graciella's sister in the head and called 911 so that her heart could be transplanted into McCaleb, who in turn might be implicated as the murderer. Soon, the serial killer resumes his evildoing, murdering someone and leaving the same calling card. The clues point to a psychotic two-time loser who had retired from serial killing until McCaleb got his heart so that he could taunt him, and there is an inevitable showdown in which good triumphs over evil. Meanwhile, Graciella has fallen in love in with McCaleb; with her son fascinated by McCaleb, the three make a happy family when the film ends to the chagrin of Durango. As is Eastwood's custom, the film carries an important political message: Those who have been convicted of two felonies who commit a third have no qualms about pulling off murders, since any subsequent conviction (even for a simple holdup) will have the same effect under the three-strikes law--lifetime imprisonment.

Eastwood's apparent campaign to repeal the law in order to reduce homicide is made reasonably explicit early in the film, may be forgotten as the plot unfolds, but is supported by the loony actions of the film's villain, whom film-viewers will probably guess early enough in the film. MH

Although Low Heights (aka Low Altitude and Ertefae Past in Farsi), directed by Ebrahim Hatamikia, is about the hijacking of an airplane, the drama enables filmviewers to assess conditions in contemporary Iran. Ghaseem (played by Hamid Farokhnejad) has given up hope of ever finding happiness in his native Iran. Although he has funds to migrate to another country, he evidently lacks government approval. Accordingly, he buys airplane tickets for his entire family with the intention of hijacking the plane, but without any clear destination. When the family boards a propeller flight for Bandar Abbass, Ghaseem has told them that they have jobs already lined up with Total Oil Corporation. Once midair, Ghaseem pulls out a gun to hijack the flight; the small airport where he boarded did not have a security-screening machine, and no pat-down search was conducted. Emotional outbursts, one after the other, constitute most of the dialog at this point. Presumably, we could be laughing at all the nonsense spoken, but the tragedy is real. The pilot, pressed for a non-Iranian destination, suggests a landing in Dubai; but just as the plane lands there, control of the gun passes to the airplane's security guard, so the plane takes off again. With insufficient fuel to land at any airport in Iran near the Persian Gulf, the plane crash lands somewhere in a mountain desert region. The film ends before disclosing the fate of the crew and passengers, who survive the landing, including Ghaseem's second son, who is born on the flight. Why did Ghaseem take such extraordinary measures to fly his family out of Iran? Clearly, he is unemployed and desperate for steady work to provide security to his family. Despite the wealth accruing from Iran's oil revenues, the film discloses that not all oil workers have job security or medical benefits. His son suffers from a malady, presumably autism, which could have been prevented by a single injection at birth. One member of his family was whipped thirty times for indulging in alcohol, thus hinting that the Iranian regime's punishments far exceed the crimes. Ghaseem might, of course, have applied for an immigrant visa, but he evidently was not aware how to undertake a legal method of migrating from Iran. Thus, while the story focuses on a pathetic melodrama, and the discourse is frantic with occasional humor, the message is that the Iranian government is not responsive to the needs of some of its most humble and loyal citizens. MH