Over-produced political conspiracy thriller, from a trash novel by David Baldacci, is good fun . . . up to a point, sort of Richard (MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE) Condon for Dummies.* Clint Eastwood megs & stars as a classy thief who hits museum drawing classes between upscale robberies. But he gets in over his head after accidentally witnessing U.S. President Gene Hackman roughing up his mistress from behind a two-way mirror in the midst of a haul. (At times, you wonder how much of the cast are in on the film's comic angles.) Anyway, the sex turns into a nasty murder scene, followed by a major cover up by Secret Service guys Scott Glenn & Dennis Haysbert who are themselves taking orders from White House Chief of Staff Judy Davis. (A tarantella between lovestruck Davis & Prez Hackman at a White House reception ought to be a major highlight; alas, it’s outside Eastwood’s range and falls flat.) Meanwhile, police dick Ed Harris is closing in on Eastwood for the crime (and romantically for estranged daughter Laura Linney), but unable to make logistical sense of the complex murder scene. Eastwood lends everything polish when it needs edge, but still delivers an entertaining empty-calorie smoothy you forget as you watch.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: He’d never have gone for it, but what if Eastwood played compromised Prez and Hackman the second-story man. Instant dramatic bump up.
DOUBLE-BILL: *While Condon’s MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE/’62 and PRIZZI’S HONOR/85 are rightly prized, the spirited lunacy of William Richert’s attempt at Condon’s WINTER KILLS/’79 (a Kennedy Assassination Shaggy Dog Story w/ Jeff Bridges, John Huston, Tony Perkins, et al.) is sui generis paranoid crazy shit.