Clint Eastwood: Badass man of action and American Icon since 1964.
Exploitation: Material that is mostly known for being gratuitous and violent. Usually relegated to films that contain copious amounts of nudity and violence.
A few weeks ago, I was on The B-Action Thread (I spend a shitload of my time on the CHUD boards on that thread, which is the best thread in THE ENTIRE INTERNET) and I was discussing the merits of Clint Eastwood’s seedier side, as well as the fact that not all of these “experimental” films were seedy. Some of them were just films that he experimented with, and took a chance on.
This past week I was discussing these particular films that I then dubbed CLINTPLOITATION (for those wondering what the hell I’m talking about, I put Clint’s name and the word exploitation together) with fellow B-Action Thread regular, and Chewer: HunterTarantino aka Mike Flynn, and he offered to do a write up on several of the movies that we had been discussing via Private Message, and e-mail. He decided to write on The Gauntlet, Sudden Impact (Which is I Spit On Your Grave guest starring Inspector Harry Callahan), Every Which Way But Loose, and The Rookie. I decided to write up Any Which Way You Can, The Dead Pool, Tightrope, and The Rookie as well. The reason we both decided to give our takes on The Rookie, is that not only is that the culmination of Clint’s seedier experimental side, but it’s a movie that I’ve been raving about on The B-Action Thread since it’s inception back in 2006, and I continue to do so today.
Any Which Way You Can is what a sequel is supposed to be. BIGGER AND BETTER. This is symbolized in the film by William Smith’s FREAKING HUGE ARMS. My maleness shrank a bit seeing how ripped his arms were, and made me realize I need to man the shit up and start working out again. The movie is notable for being the sequel to Clint’s first successful foray into comedy. He was known for being a man’s man and wa advised against doing this picture with the ape in it, and it turned into his most successful movie at the time. It still had him being a badass (he is a bare knuckle fighter) but he plays his role for comedy and IT WORKS.
Any Which Way You Can contains more Clyde, more Ma, and even has a bizarre montage that focuses on Clint romancing Sondra Locke, Clyde romancing a female Orangutan, and a man SEDUCING ANNE RAMSEY. They go so far as to show her SHAKING HER ASS, and that would make any man turn away. the movie also has the immortal line “Right turn, Clyde.” and a great theme song. Clint’s fight with William Smith is much better than his fight with Tank Murdock, and The Black Widows get tar on them, and end up hairless. Lots of great things going on in this flick, and definitely worth Clint experimenting with comedy again.
After successful forays into comedy, Clint once again went dark with Sudden Impact, but he really went full out there with Tightrope. Tightrope is something that Lucio Fulci would have made after The New York Ripper. It’s strange at first to see this extremely sleazy movie with Clint Eastwood as the star It’s got Clint going into a bar with steel drums playing, and a guy in a black speedo shaking his junk as he spins around on a rotating carousel not 2 FEET from Clint as he walks by. How he did that scene without cracking up is incredible. He then goes and sits down and watches WOMEN OIL WRESTLE while a LITTLE PERSON REFEREE’S. He then talks to Clint and with memorable dialogue tells him “Check out the blonde with the BIG BAZOOKAS!”
Later on Clint is oiled up with said blonde and writhes on top of her. Did I forget to mention they’re both oiled up? His little daughter also asks him what a hard-on is. Yeah, this is a family movie through and through. I don’t know what possessed Clint to do Tightrope, and I don’t care. All I know is that it exists, and I’m glad that it does. This would seriously be a duller world without seeing Clint oogle women oil wrestling. Or seeing Poe from Hard Target tell a woman that works for him that she’s late and that the customer will be made. Then she gets into a hot tub after turning on some seriously pornorgaphic sounding music.
Tightrope is a whodunit, and even though you get small glimpses of the killer, he’s mostly masked or in shadows. The movie also is essentially an American Giallo, and that’s what I admire most about it. As I said before, it would not have been out of place if Fulci had directed it. Definitely one to see if you want to see Clint Eastwood sleaze it up like never before.
The Dead Pool is the 5th and last of the Dirty Harry movies. It’s also the one that is pretty much a horror movie. It’s a whodunit like Tightrope, and there’s plenty of red herrings. Liam Neeson shows up as an egotistical David O. Russell-esque English director who calls Harry “Luv” It also does a homage to Bullit with Harry and his partner being chased by A REMOTE CONTROLLED CAR! Jim Carrey has a small role as a drug addled rock star who lip synchs to “Welcome To The Jungle” and the late Eric Douglas has a bit part as a thug trying to rob a Chinese restaurant. Clint’s never done a straight up horror movie, but this final Dirty Harry movie with horror movies being a major plot point is the closest we’ll ever get to see him in a horror movie. He does a damn great job, and unlike others who don’t like it (it’s generally seen as the weakest of the Harry films, but both myself and Mike agree that that is relegated to The Enforcer.) I think The Dead Pool was a great swansong for Inspector Harry Callahan.
I cap off my CLINTPLOITATION! blog with my take on The Rookie. This is the movie that seems to evenly split The B-Action Thread. There are those that outright hate it and think it’s a piece of crap, and there are us who recognize it as a nice piece of action. This was Clint’s last exploitation flick. It was followed 2 years later by his last western. It seems like the 1990’s was Cliint closing out most of the genres he starred in for most of his career.
The Rookie features a “Harry Callahan” esque character named Nick Pulovski, who takes under his wing a young detective named David Ackerman. They decide to take down a chop shop ring led by Raul Julia and Sonia Braga. I think I forgot to mention that they’re playing GERMANS. Yes, Raul Julia from Puerto Rico, and Sonia Braga from Brazil play characters named Strom and Liesl. A lot of people peg that as a fault, but I think that’s one of it’s strengths. Not a lot of movies have the balls to put to Hispanic actors to play Germans. As my Dad told me when I saw the movie with him way back when, “There’s Germans that look like them.”
The one scene that most people tend to remember from it is when Sonia Braga rapes Clint. She’s got him handcuffed to a chair, and then she proceeds to straddle him while making him bite on a bullet that she has around his neck. The scene is obviously not erotic, and it isn’t played for laughs, but this seems to be the ultimate bit of CLINTPLOITATION. After all the sleaze that’s come before, Clint closes it out with having a woman RAPE HIM. That takes a lot of guts for an established film actor to do that to himself on film.
The movie also has a who’s who of character actors. Xander Berkley, Marco Rodriguez, Tony Plana, and Pepe Serna. Tom Skeritt and Lara Flynn Boyle even show up. The explosions and action are big and fast. Nothing is sacred. CHARLIE SHEEN SHOOTS A DOG! He also shoots Sonia Braga in the head. Marco Rodriguez has a knockdown drag out fight with Lara Flynn Boyle. The music score is some Latin tinged greatness, and Paul Ben-Victor gets hung on a coat rack. This movie is 100% certified GRADE A FABULOUS. If you want to see Clint and Charlie Sheen drive a Mercedes out a building that blows up as they do it. See this movie. If you want to see Charlie Sheen say “And I hate the way you drive, and I hate your fucking whiskey breath!” see this movie. It just may change your life.
Rene’s song of the day: “The Good Guys And The Bad Guys” by John Durrill.
Thanks for reading my blog and see you next time!
The Gauntlet (1977)
The first two Dirty Harry entries notwithstanding, The Gauntlet is Clint Eastwood’s best 70’s offering, and his best straight-up action movie. Case in point: Clint swooped this one up after Steve McQueen and Barbra Streisand couldn’t get along, and Sam Peckinpah was starting to descend into madness. The Gauntlet feels like a prototype for the modern action film, an A-list lead actor and pedigree surrounded by classic exploitation sleaze: bikers, hookers, rape, alcoholism, and a Frank Frazetta-drawn poster that, if it was a person, it’d kick your ass and drown you in an above-ground pool filled with Jack Daniel’s and then blast Motorhead and bang your girlfriend. Yeah, it’s that kind of movie. Eastwood is Phoenix cop Ben Shockley—as in been shockingly drunk all the time on the job—and he gets tasked with escorting hooker-cum-informant Sondra Locke through the deserts of the Southwest. Of course, a lot of people want both of them dead—the Mafia, bikers, and an array of corrupt cops so large you’d have thought the Phoenix police department migrated to Los Angeles for causing such mayhem in the city.
Not including the two Westerns he helmed before this, High Plains Drifter or The Outlaw Josey Wales, it’s Eastwood’s second go-around at a straight-up action movie. The first was the very cool Eiger Sanction, but has a third act that contradicts the madness of Clint as a top-secret government assassin who works for an albino Nazi fugitive. As director, Eastwood builds up The Gauntlet is that the momentum of the action sequences escalates more and more with each scene. A lot of times, action films burn out their money moment before the climax—this one doesn’t, and the payoff of Shockley ramming that armored bus through a huge army of cops “following orders” is a doozy. As you’ll figure out from this list, Sondra Locke shows up in his movies a lot and is often the blunt end of horrible things happening to her—a classic motif of the Clintploitation ideology. Here, as CI prostitute Gus, she uses her body as leverage to curb a couple of bikers from beating the living shit out of Shockley. Thus begins the second installment of the Sondra Locke Gets Raped in Clint Eastwood Movies Trilogy—but that’s another story. What matters is The Gauntlet, and it fucking rules.
Every Which Way But Loose (1978)
Perhaps the best opening statement about Every Which Way But Loose is that it was intended for Burt Reynolds, the other 70’s box office titan. When he turned down, Clint stepped in to the chagrin of those around him. They expected a failure and got an enormous box-office hit. This is, of course, the first half of the Philo Beddoe duology, where Clint played the awesomely named bare-knuckle brawler, madly in love with Sondra Locke and best friends with his pet orangutan Clyde.
The idea of this movie being such a hit is fucking ludicrous. Seriously, the entire movie is like that old “Running Faggot” skit from The Kids in the Hall where all he did was run for no reason and encounter people on his travels. Philo, too, seems to have no real ambitions, and there’s a formula to his life—beat the shit out of some poor sap, goes trucking, drinks up with his buddy Orville (Geoffrey Lewis!), more trucking, falls in love, more trucking, more fighting, Clyde causes mischief, more drinking, more fighting, more mischief, repeat. You’d have yourself an American-International release still not on DVD if it wasn’t for Clint, though, who gives such a silly drive-in premise a class that it doesn’t need in the first place—an easy way to label it “Clintploitation.” It’s slight, simple (as in “simpleton”) fare, but compared to other shit that passes as a blockbuster comedy these days like Wild Hogs or Couples Retreat, it’s a keeper. Oh, and the part where Ruth Gordon yells at Philo and Clyde because the latter ate up all her Oreos genuinely makes me laugh. Really fucking hard. “CLYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYDE, GODDAMMIT!”
Sudden Impact (1983)
Everyone remembers “Go ahead, make my day.” Less remember the actual film it came from, Sudden Impact, Dirty Harry’s fourth outing, and it’s a shame. It arrived in 1983 as a result of a poll Warner took on what dormant franchise should return. The lovable, .44 Magnum-wielding detective won the vote, and thus Harry Callahan returned to a new decade of the Republican regime. The first two movies arrived during Nixon’s tenure, and The Enforcer, arguably the weak link of the series, came along in 1976, when Ford lost the election to Carter. The Reagan era was in full swing for the release of Sudden Impact, a buy-one-get-one-free sale on exploitation subgenres that blasts the iconic 70’s fascist into a new decade of hugging the right wing. For the price of one vigilante cop movie, you also get a rape-and-revenge thriller for absolutely nothing extra.
No need to have I Spit on Your Grave on hand as a chaser for the latter, kids—Sondra Locke (once again!) plays who might be Inspector Callahan’s match, a rape victim who’s methodically capping the men and woman who violated her. Harry’s on the case in spite of recent events pissing off his superiors—for example, crashing a mob boss’s daughter’s wedding in order to deliver the kingpin a fatal heart attack. And does Callahan come back in full swing—if the first three movies made him a cinematic icon, then Sudden Impact is the movie that embedded him deep into the pop-culture vernacular. With directing duties also in his hand, not only is Clint is at the top of his game as Harry, he directs with a distinguishable craft that elevates it over similar offerings of the time like Vice Squad* or, say, Death Wish II (not that those movies are Tbad). Whereas those are true grindhouse offerings, Eastwood made an awesome blockbuster where everybody wins—the depraved get a seedy neo-fascist thriller, and the commercial audiences get the best possible Clint goes badass crowd-pleaser.
*- Extra points if you knew that Vice Squad was the original source of the “Go ahead, [scumbag] make my day” line, even if this one popularized it. Can you even imagine the greatness of Clint doing an Any Which Way You Can-style duet with a punk artist? Just picture a “Neon Slime”-style number with Eastwood and X dueting.
The Rookie (1990): Mike’s Take
If you’ve read the B Action thread in-depth, you’ve probably gathered that The Rookie is an issue of ethics—it’s a sensitive ethical topic you either support or oppose. But to hell with the semantics of a frivolous debate, The Rookie is a truly distinct beast in Clint Eastwood’s long career. Joel Silver, producer of Predator, Lethal Weapon, Die Hard, and of course, Action Jackson, had a distinctive style to his productions that was seeping into other films, and The Rookie is Eastwood’s Joel Silver production, even without the bearded wonder producing—mean spirited, violent, and 100 percent pure excess. It’s essentially the sixth Dirty Harry entry—angry L.A. detective Nick Pulovski gets thrown off the case of busting an auto theft ring led by the eeeeeeevillllllll German criminal lover duo Strom (Raul Julia) and Liesl (Sonia Braga). Pulovski gets a new partner in young whipper-snapper David Ackerman (Carlos Irwin “Charlie Sheen” Estevez), and Ackerman of course falls prey to Pulovski’s obsession with making sure another Kiss of the Spider Woman reunion ever happens again.
Made presumably to get the sorely underrated White Hunter Black Heart financed by Warner Bros., The Rookie is Clint’s last exploitation-y vehicle before he started winning a ton of Oscars. If Unforgiven was the last Eastwood Western, then The Rookie is pretty much Eastwood’s swan song from exploitation and cheap thrills. Owen Gleiberman called it “a series of garish exploitation set pieces jammed into the shape of a buddy movie” when it was first released. He meant this as a con, but it’s a pro. The Rookie shouldn’t be the giant blast of fun it is, we’ve seen this plot, what, 962 times before? However, Eastwood and Sheen have killer banter between them, and Julia (gone too soon is an understatement) and Braga are delectable scenery chewers as the bad guys. The violence borders on ridiculous—no squib is left without exploding in all its viscous Karo syrup glory,
What makes this true Clintploitation, however, is the screenplay, written by Evil Dead II co-writer Scott Spiegel and Boaz Yakin, who wrote the Dolph Lundgren Punisher movie, and that should be a good indication that this is no can of high gloss paint. As perhaps an act of irony, karma, or reverse psychology, Eastwood is the rape victim here at the hands of the hot as hell Braga, but it’d be too easy to let him enjoy it because Eastwood as a cop operates on two modes: glower and glower harder. Tom Skerritt makes an appearance as David’s slimy dad, whose attempted bribery of Pulovski ends in a priceless zing only Eastwood could deliver so perfectly: “If you want a guarantee, buy a toaster!” I could go on all day about the one-liners on display here: when a thug remarks that he thought David was dead, Pulovski remarks before capping him, “Well, welcome to hell!” Again, say this in your best Clint Eastwood sneering voice. Perhaps the best line, though, is a bloodied, angry Pulovski towering over the equally injured Strom with this amazing quote:
There’s gotta be a hundred reasons why I don’t blow you away. Right now I can’t think of one. *BLAM*
Or this beautifully written diatribe that Pulovski sneers towards a useless newswoman:
Well, that’s right, ma’am. I realize that homicides and splashy robberies get most of the headlines, but it’s about time this crime gets the attention it deserves. It’s impossible to make a real dent. But it is possible to hurt individual assholes who fuck it up for everyone. Now, I happen to know of a prick that’s responsible for the whole fucking operation, and that son of bitch is hurting out there, and I’m fucking liking it.
I’d write a closing paragraph, but saying The Rookie is the reason why we celebrate Thanksgiving is more concise and less wordy.