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George At 

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The Rookie

In 1990, Clint Eastwood suffered his fourth box office bomb in a row with THE ROOKIE.

Warner Bros. had seen the 5th Dirty Harry movie underperform, Clint fail to connect with the eclectic "White Hunter, Black Heart" and "Pink Cadilliac" and hoped to get audiences back by pairing Clint with a young Charlie Sheen.

Eastwood plays veteran cop Nick Pulovski, hot on the trail of a huge car theft ring. The film opens well, with the bad guys stealing car after car from an upscale valet and loading them on a car carrier.

When Nick goes after them, the LA freeway is littered with Porsche's and Jaguars, with the bad guys ejecting them from the carrier on top of their pursuer. It's a great stunt sequence, done full scale.

Nick is paired up with young rich kid and smart cop David Ackerman, played by Charlie Sheen. You can see the screenplay working very hard to give Eastwood & Sheen a "Lethal Weapon" style repartee, but it falls very flat.

The head of the crime ring is Strom, played with menace by Raul Julia (The Addams Family, Havana) who's clearly enjoying playing a bad guy. He gets great backup from Sonia Braga as his violent, unhinged female sidekick.

But WOW does this early nineties flick have some strange and uncomfortable scenes, including a scene where Braga sexually assaults Eastwood while he's tied to a chair. With a razor blade in her hand and video cameras rolling (why is she taping it???) she rapes him in a long and queasy scene. Worst of all, the entire sequence is thrown away with a cheap joke between Sheen and Eastwood.

Sheen is also forced to make a strange character transformation that sees him being incredibly callous and borderline abusive to his girlfriend. His actions make no sense and it doesn't play well.

There is one great sequence in which Eastwood & Sheen escape a building wired with explosives in an improbable Mercedes jump that foreshadows "Fast & Furious" madness to come decades later.

There's also a solid action conclusion at the airport with echoes of McQueen's "Bullitt" but this one is a long way from that 60's classic.

Director Eastwood said years later about this film, "Sometimes things work, sometimes they don't. That didn't."

Clint, you've got that right.

Burned out after this film failed with Christmas audiences in 1990, he would hunker down and work on a film that he'd hoped to make for years, "The Unforgiven", which started his career back on an incredible arc that continues 25 years later.

As far as THE ROOKIE is concerned, it's a strained, uncomfortably awkward blend that never fully forms into anything beyond a lesser Eastwood film. It makes too many rookie mistakes to get anything other than a C.

And wait a minute, Raul Julia's character is German? This might he the worst attempt at an accent since Costner's Queen's English in "Robin Hood"....

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