|Review||Tightrope (1984)||Director||Richard Tuggle|
|Cast||Clint Eastwood, Genevieve Bujold, Dan Hedaya, Alison Eastwood and Jennifer Beck|
“There’s a darkness inside all of us, Wes. You, me and the man down the street. Some have it under control, others act it out. The rest of us try to walk the tightrope between the two.” – Lawyer friend of Wes Block
New Orleans cop Wes Block (Eastwood), a single dad of two girls, goes after a serial killer-rapist who’s prowling the French Quarter of New Orleans. As Block gets nearer to his target he starts indulging in all sorts of kinky activities under the guise of investigation and gradually realizes that the two of them are the opposite sides of the same coin. Soon Block catches the killer’s attention and any woman whom he gets close to is in grave danger…even his teenage daughter.
It’s a stretch to coin any of Eastwood’s movies as genuine cult items but some of them stray fairly from the mainstream. The legendary actor/director is a favourite of mine and I wanted to cover at least one of his movies and “Tightrope” fits the bill perfectly as something slightly different. For one thing the sleaze factor is pretty high and the character of Wes is a radical departure from the Harry Callahan’s and other similar lone ranger types of law officials Eastwood is known for. Far from being the morally upstanding and confident detective; Wes continually gives into his carnal desires and seeks out kinky activities for his own gratification. He’s a borderline alcoholic as well. Wes is in fact much more human than the no-nonsense heroes Eastwood had perfected up to that point in Westerns and action films. And he embraces the role with full force, quite bravely disclosing Wes’s frailties and insecurities as he closes in on a vicious psychopath whom he fears he bears more than a passing resemblance to.
The bleak look of the film is noteworthy as well. New Orleans has always been a picturesque background for any film but it looks especially menacing here. The lowlight alley street corners and dark corridors of various seedy establishments Wes goes to investigate (and fulfil his own desires) figuratively witness the character’s gradual descent into an abyss that’s almost consuming him. It’s a sobering look at an actor who’s stretching himself character wise, Eastwood comes out a winner and the look of the film compliments it beautifully.
The killer himself is of special interest as well. It’s almost irrelevant who’s behind the murders as the story solely focuses on Wes’s identification with him and vice versa. That said; he’s quite the menacing presence appearing in various guises (and even with a creepy mask) and able to strike very close to Wes’s home. Although “Tightrope” is never especially bloody or graphic it has a certain slasher-film vibe running through and the killer’s targets and methods enhance that feel.
Genevieve Bujold stars as Beryl Thibodeaux, an activist who runs a rape crisis center, and she’s the only person who seems to understand Wes’s predicament. She’s not an especially realized character but the scenes between her and Eastwood do show a side to Wes that he wants to keep intact. Bujold is fine in the role and plays well opposite Eastwood. Alison Eastwood performs admirably in a rather difficult role for a youngster and the always likable supporting actor Dan Hedaya does well as Wes’s partner.
Story has it that writer and director Richard Tuggle was replaced by Eastwood in the directing chair as filming went on. Whether that’s true or not any behind the scenes drama didn’t damage the finished product as “Tightrope” is a remarkably accomplished and focused thriller that will always be somewhat of an anomaly in Eastwood’s career.