a critiQal film review The Rookie (1990)

  • DVD
  • Blu-Ray

Plot: Still reeling from the death of his brother when he was young, rookie detecive David Ackerman (Sheen) is partnered with veteran cop Nick Pulovski (Eastwood) in the burglary division. Despite having been taken of the case, Nick is determined to hunt down and destroy Strom (Julia), the head of a major car theft and chop shop ring.- which means David is about to get a crash course on what it means to be Nick's partner.

Reviewed
718 words (Est. Reading Time 3m 35s)

Ah, Charlie Sheen. He was in the news a lot about a year or so ago, thanks to his rants and raves, but it seems like he’s now calmed down and restarted his life, thanks to his new show, “Anger Management” (TV), which has gotten off to a huge start.

But, back before he had “tiger blood” coursing through his veins, Charlie did a movie with esteemed actor Clint Eastwood, titled The Rookie. I had heard about it back when it came out in 1990, but had never actually gotten around to seeing it. When perusing the NetFlix® queue recently, it caught my eye, as one of the films NetFlix® was about to pull from it’s instant queue line-up. Not knowing when it would be available again, I immediately sat down to check it out.

Would The Rookie be a gem I’d overlooked, or would it something I should have continued to let pass me by?

Clint Eastwood has gotten the cop role down pat. Ever since his turn as Dirty Harry, he’s the iconic bar that every actor playing a tough cop aims for. As for Clint, well, he’d just reprised that role in The Dead Pool a few years earlier, so playing tough cop seemed entirely effortless for him, and he commands the viewer’s attention whenever he’s on screen.

Charlie Sheen, on the other hand, isn’t exactly anyone’s idea of a tough cop, so it’s a little harder to see him in the role, despite his efforts. While the 90’s were huge for Charlie (he starred in hits Men at Work and Navy Seals the same year as The Rookie), he might have been picking any script that came along, no matter if it really fit him or not.

True, Navy Seals showcased that he could play a tough guy, but The Rookie somehow still feels like an odd fit for him for most of the film. That may be in part due to the uncertain direction of the film itself.

While Clint Eastwood has been able to create powerful films before – and since – when he’s playing the dual role of actor and director, he seems a bit at a loss with The Rookie. For the first part of the film, it seems obvious that Clint’s character is the big star of the pic, with Sheen just meekly going along with him. However, when the tables are turned, Charlie Sheen takes center stage in a big way, while Clint becomes nothing more than the typical iconic movie co-hort (see Robert DeNiro in Killer Elite (2011) for another example).

When Charlie ends up taking center stage, he does manage to take the film and run with it, and actually, that turns out to be the best part of the film. But, once the two of them are back trying to share center stage again, the viewer once again lapses into an odd sort of confusion, as the film itself doesn’t seem to know which to focus on.

With other buddy cop films, like Lethal Weapon (1987) and The Last Boy Scout (1991), there is a clear sense that while the film is focusing on two partners, one is the lead and the other the co-star. Viewers don’t get that sense with The Rookie. Instead, they have the sense the film is trying to switch the center from Eastwood to Sheen, yet, as Sheen spends the movie doing a solid job of mimicking his co-star, it’s a switch that really doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense.

That’s partially due to the storytelling, as the film never really does a good job of fleshing out it’s characters. Instead, they seem to be nothing more than characters with sketched in backgrounds made personable only by the actors playing them. With just a sketched-in background, the characters never truly connect with the audience, and viewers will never really dive head first into the rather simplistic rogue-cops-vs.-The-Evil-Bad-Guy mentality of the film.

While Charlie Sheen’s tough guy cop portion is worth the price of admission (complete with a bar brawl and flames), the film’s inability to create a solid focus for it’s viewers leaves a lot to be desired. A simplistic buddy cop flick, The Rookie, sadly, seems to just miss the mark, and isn’t nearly as good as it could have been.

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