Absolute Power (1997)

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I recall first seeing this film, based on the book by David Baldacci (a former lawyer), a few months after it came out (with my mom).  We liked it a lot- the acting (it has a fantastic cast), pacing (editing), and  even soundtrack (which enhances the film, but isn’t invasive).  It’s directed by Clint Eastwood, who also plays the lead role of master thief Luther Whitney. 

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While robbing one of the homes of billionaire philanthropist Walter Sullivan (E.G. Marshall; one of the 12 Angry Men), Luther witnesses the brutal assault and murder of the elderly man’s young wife, Christie.  The cover-up involves the President’s cold-blooded Chief of Staff, Gloria Russell (Australian Judy Davis) and two Secret Service agents- stoic Vietnam vet Bill Burton (Scott Glenn) and sadistic eager beaver Tim Collin (Dennis Haysbert).  This was one of Haysbert’s first movie roles, but you can sense the strong screen presence- something that can’t be taught. 

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Do you know what it was like to be the only kid in class that got to talk about visiting day? -Kate bitterly comments to Luther

I love true crime.  -Luther works his charm on Det. Seth Frank

To make things more complicated, Luther’s daughter Kate (Laura Linney, also in one of her first big roles), is an ambitious young DA!  At first, she wants nothing to do with him, but then learns of the gravity of what her father has experienced.  This is the movie that made my mom a fan of Linney.  Kate’s a very relatable young lady, trying to do the right thing.   

Since Luther is such a skilled thief, the cops decide to question him about the crime.  The lead investigator on the case, Det.  Seth Frank (Ed Harris), seems to admire Luther a bit (he was a war hero).  He also develops a big crush on Kate-  a (needed) sweet/humorous aspect to the story. 

Every time I watch this movie the highlight for me is the scene between Clint and Ed Harris.  Their little cat and mouse is not only fun to watch, but they both genuinely seem to be enjoying the scene.  Eastwood’s line about being the star of his AARP meetings is priceless, as are Ed Harris’s reactions.  -IMDB comment

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…despite his criminal behavior he’s an “honorable” thief…  -IMDB comment

One of the scenes that stands out in my mind is the dance/talk between Davis and Gene Hackman, who plays President Alan Richmond.  It’s especially well done, and fun to watch.  Davis’ character is a source of humor in a few moments, too. 

Oops, I almost forgot to say how great Glenn (one of Eastwood’s close friends) is in this movie!  Now you have it.  His character is very conflicted- a good guy who takes a terrible turn at the end of his career. 

luther_kateI couldn’t have my daughter thinking I was a murderer.  -Luther explains to Kate

I also enjoyed all the father-daughter scenes in the film; Luther and Kate’s strained relationship grew and changed over the movie.  After all, it’s very difficult (perhaps impossible) to turn your back on family.  When Kate tries to help the police peacefully arrest her father, she puts her own life in danger.  This kicks Luther into high gear- he has to protect his little girl and clear his name.  After all, he’s a thief, not a murderer!       

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