Stars: Clint Eastwood, Isaiah Washington, James Woods
Steve Everett (Clint Eastwood) is a nearly washed up newspaperman for the Oakland Tribune, a womanizer and an alcoholic. When a young journalist, named Michelle, accidentally dies, Everett is ordered to take over her story, a human interest work on Frank Beechum (Isaiah Washington), a black prison inmate who’s got till midnight to live.
Everett isn’t much for the human interest angle, though. His “nose” tells him that Michelle was right. Beechum is innocent of murdering a young pregnant white girl . But, Everett’s nose has been wrong in the past and he’s been in hot water ever since. So now he has to go about doing his job under the watchful eyes of his manager, Bob Findlay (Denis Leary) who hates his guts and chief editor Alan (James Woods) who can’t afford another Everett debacle.
As the clock ticks, Everett works feverishly to cope with his own failing marriage, his young daughter’s needs and, of course, proving Beechum’s innocence.
“True Crime” was produced and directed by Clint Eastwood and I like what he’s done here, although at times, I wished Eastwood himself was not in the picture. His age is really showing and if this were the real world, the paper would have fired him long ago, if not for his mistakes then surely for his over-the-hill age and mentality. Eastwood’s raspy voice makes it sound like he’s whispering every line more so than he’s done in the past and his aura no longer serves him as well as it did in his younger days.
Still, as a director, he is very good. The scenes inside the prison as Beechum waits for his death are done with an incredible sensitivity I’ve not seen before. They depict dignity, not only of the inmate, but of the guards and warden who must attend to him. There is really only one scene in which the guards show a disdain for the routine, but overall, the whole segment is staged with as much respect for death as there is for life. As I listened to the warden’s instructions to Beechum as to procedures, my heart pounded and when I saw Beechum with his wife Bonnie (Lisa Gay Hamilton – who does an excellent job) and his young daughter, I could feel sympathy and heartache. Of course it was easier to feel these things knowing what Everett knows, that Beechum didn’t murder the girl.
The movie is split between these prison scenes which are never the least bit boring because they are played so well by Washington, Hamilton and the various prison crew and Everett’s racing around to gather information. There can’t have been much of a police investigation in the matter, though, because Everett nails a rather large discrepancy very early on. Still, he has to prove it and that’s where the ticking clock really comes into play.
Another excellent scene is the one in which Everett’s wife Barbara tells him it’s over. Great care is taken with the character and the dialogue and you feel her anguish.
Lotta says this is a well done, thoughtful piece with enough action to keep the adrenaline popping.