Clint Eastwood plays a veteren thief framed for murder.
Considering who and what went into the making of this cat-and-mouse conspiracy thriller, you would be justified in anticipating a tense suspenser a la In The Line Of Fire. But you would be wrong.
It is, however, well made. Produced and directed by Eastwood, adapted by William Goldman from a cracking bestseller and enlisting as Eastwood's co-stars two of the best character actors money can buy in Hackman and Harris, it also prominently features Judy Davis and Scott Glenn. There is even a role, though not a great one, for one of Hollywood's best kept secrets, the excellent and underemployed Dennis Haysbert (Love Field, Heat).
Eastwood is ageing masterthief and lone wolf Luther Whitney, whose meticulously planned last big job, a heist in a millionaire's mansion, goes awry when he is the aghast witness to a brutal sex assault and murder. Making matters worse, the President of the United States (Hackman) is involved. Luther is in short order detected, pursued, framed and fleeing from White House dastards, police, G-men and a privately engaged hitman. So the deal is: will the old man outdistance them or outsmart them?
Onto this plot framework further complications are built. There's Luther's alienated daughter (Laura Linney), who just happens to be an assistant DA. And there's an honest detective (Harris) who is not quite as slow on the uptake as everyone else. He gives the best performance on view and his delightful first encounter with Eastwood is a real highlight.
Eastwood, of course, delivers some very neat set pieces. But developments and our wily hero's exploits, although craftily polished, become increasingly far-fetched there's some alarmingly foolish dialogue, and some of the principals (Eastwood himself, Hackman and Davis more shamelessly) seem to be sending themselves up. One senses they were all having too good a time to play this completely straight. The result is entertaining but not seriously absorbing.
Frequently fun, but glossy tosh.