It is sad to see a movie like True Crime go so horribly, horribly wrong. It has a good director and a very talented cast, all of whom are doing their utmost to enliven the routine story. But at each and every turn, they are thwarted by a horrific screenplay.
Clint Eastwood directs and stars as reporter Steve Everett. Steve is a train wreck of a man with a penchant for cheating on his wife with very young women (particularly those who are close relatives of his employers). He’s a recovering alcoholic with only one thing to rely on: his nose for news.
On what may be the last story of his career, Steve is assigned a puff piece detailing the last day of a man on death row. The man, Frank Beachum (Isaiah Washington), was convicted of killing a pregnant store clerk over a miniscule debt. He protested his innocence, but two witnesses
But as Steve conducts the routine interviews, he gets one of his trademark hunches: Frank is an innocent man. But there are fewer than twelve hours until Frank’s execution. Is Steve right? And, if he is, how can he prevent Frank’s death if he can’t ever do anything right?
True Crime is a movie filled with great actors, and some good scenes. But, even with those plusses, it is one heck of a terrible movie. The problem is the screenplay, pure and simple. It sets up one jaw-droppingly bad situation after another. Just when you think the film can’t get any more ridiculous, it manages to top itself yet again.
And it truly is a pity. The interplay between Clint Eastwood and his editor-in-chief (played with relish by James Woods) is a delight and deserves to be in a much better movie than this. In fact, nearly all the actors in the film are able to deliver much more innovation than their cardboard characters deserve.
In fact, the film is almost (I repeat, almost) watchable on the basis of the actors alone. But, every time when you are just about to forgive the screenplay for its countless sins, it deposits out of the blue yet another terrible line of dialogue, a completely ridiculous plot twist, or a jarringly obvious cliche.
All of this wasted potential makes True Crime absolutely painful to watch. Usually, movies this bad will numb you over time. But, with True Crime, you are always able to see the brilliant movie that is just out of reach…and the experience is devastating.