Imagine you ran a movie studio today, and I came in and pitched you a Buddy Cop movie starring Clint Eastwood as the reckless, out-of-control loose cannon, and Charlie Sheen as the stable, no-nonsense goody two-shoes. You’d obviously think I was fucking with you, but back in 1990 the notion was plausible enough that the movie actually got made.

The Rookie stars Eastwood (who also directs) as Nick Pulovski, a cop whose longtime partner is killed just as they are about to finally apprehend the man behind the grand theft auto/chop shop operation they have been working to break up. Needless to say, this sets Pulovski on a mission of revenge, but let’s just stop right here for a second and point out what is perhaps the movie’s biggest flaw – a chop shop operation? Even by 1990 standards, having your main villain be a glorified car thief, and your plot revolve around a chop shop operation, is pretty darn unimpressive. Nor does it help that said villain is played by the great Raul Julia. You might think an actor of his caliber could raise the importance of the character, but really it has the opposite effect – drawing attention to how lame of a villain he is, and making you wonder why someone like Julia is slumming it in a role like this. But, then again, Julia played M. Bison in Street Fighter, so I’m not really sure what this guy considered “slumming it.”

Anyway, Eastwood is assigned a new rookie partner, David Ackerman (Charlie Sheen), and against the wishes of their always angry lieutenant (of course), the two start working to take Julia and his operation down. Because the film seems legally obligated to have a Buddy Cop movie cliché every five minutes, Ackerman is a man plagued with personal demons. He considers himself responsible for the death of his brother at a young age, AND comes from a rich family that doesn’t want him to be a cop. These two elements don’t really add a whole lot to the film, and really only seem present so as to give Ackerman the faintest hint of being an actual character…which is more than Sheen was willing to do, judging by his performance.

The movie is pretty boilerplate Buddy Cop Comedy stuff, highlighted only by a weird and somewhat uncomfortable sequence in which a tied-up Eastwood is raped by the female member of Julia’s gang, and a surprisingly violent third act that doesn’t really seem to jive with everything that came before it. This film is the last from what might be called the “dark days” of Eastwood’s career – a stretch of films during the late ‘80s that captured the fancy of neither critics nor audiences. Both Eastwood’s performance and direction here suggest a man bored with his own material, and it’s hard to blame him. This is really just Dirty Harry-lite, and I have to imagine he was more than ready to move on from this kind of character by this point. Thankfully, his next movie would be Unforgiven, arguably his masterpiece and without a doubt the movie that re-established him as a box-office draw, and finally cemented his status as one of the great living directors. Going from The Rookie to Unforgiven has got to be like going from being flogged by alcohol-soaked whips to having sex with Megan Fox, or some other much classier analogy.

Still, as clichéd and sometimes boring as this movie was, I can’t really say I hated it. It’s probably the whole “low expectations” thing again – I had heard so much negative stuff about The Rookie over the years, that it was nowhere near as awful as I was expecting, and the very fact that it had a few entertaining scenes was quite the pleasant surprise. I’m not recommending this movie, mind you. Let’s just say that, oh, if you end up with a box-set full of Eastwood movies and you feel obligated to watch them all, you don’t have to dread watching this one as much as you might initially think.

If nothing else, this scene rules.

This review was originally posted on March 24th, 2011 at Trevor Likes Movies.

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