Let’s not try and dress a turd here: The Rookie was for the most a bad idea.
Clint Eastwood’s only buddy cop piece in a directorial career spanning nearly forty movies, he took it on in exchange for Warner Bros backing a passion project. Back in the day that was a stain on his record. But in hindsight it’s pretty good.
Eastwood’s a genre director: he tells good stories in the confines of well-established tropes. At times and increasingly so later in his career, he would raise the bar for the whole genre. Unforgiven and American Sniper play on familiar turf, but still rewrite the rules and dare others to improve on it.
The Rookie isn’t one of those. It is an unfortunate mish-mash of buddy cop cliches.
This is a crowded genre, tracing the modern formula back at least as far as 48 Hours. Other luminaries include Lethal Weapon, Men in Black, Training Day, 21 Jump Street, The Other Guys, The Heat and many more. I’m sure countless film students attempted their thesis on this particular cinematic gene pool.
The Rookie adds absolutely nothing to the mix. But it is a fantastic crash course in all that is the buddy cop genre.
The script is a poorly conceived bag of everything you’d expect:
Grizzled cynical veteran cop out to avenge his partner. Young, idealistic rookie cop out to prove himself. Crazy foreign crime overlord with a penchant for murder. Sadistic criminal sidekick. Tragic back stories. Dry one-liners. Extra-judicial law-breaking. Screaming precinct lieutenant. The whole package.
What saves it is a combination of Eastwood’s skill and a pretty decent cast.
Top of the pack is Eastwood himself, channeling Dirty Harry as if it’s his last chance. Charlie Sheen, who was already battling drug and alcohol problems, hobbles along as the straight, idealistic type, but explodes in the third act as a bad boy. Meanwhile the late and great Raul Julia puts his woefully underwritten role into a heavyweight class.
The Rookie fully deserved the flop in its day. It’s a movie that shouldn’t have been made. But Eastwood and his collaborators still managed to lift it out of the muck.
Back then it wasn’t so obvious, but today – particularly with the hindsight of Eastwood’s directing career – The Rookie is a surprisingly fun and competent piece of filmmaking.[/column] [column size=one_half position=last ] [/column]
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Last Updated: October 12, 2015