The Rookie (1990)

The Rookie (1990)

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"I'm supposed to work with this guy? He's as deadpan as I am!"
“I’m supposed to work with this guy? He’s as deadpan as I am!”

Twitter Plot Summary: Clint Eastwood and Charlie Sheen join forces to take on evil Raul Julia. The levels of deadpan go through the roof.

Five Point Summary:

1. Black guy dies first.
2. One of them has to crack – too much deadpan.
3. Kidnapped!
4. Shoot him in the knees next time.
5. Mega explosion.

The Rookie sees Clint Eastwood’s grizzled veteran join up with the titular rookie cop, played by Charlie Sheen. Playing on the tired old trope of the grizzled veteran being partnered up with a precocious rookie cop, the story is as rote as they come. What makes it work however is the interplay between Eastwood and Sheen as they try to out-deadpan one another, and the script’s balance of humour with hard hitting cop action.

After his partner is killed by bad guy Raul Julia (again adhering to the stereotypes of the genre by killing the black guy first), Clint Eastwood’s Nick wants revenge but finds himself taken off the case and partnered with a rookie, Charlie Sheen’s David. They end up investigating the case regardless, and soon find themselves playing a game of oneupmanship with Mr Bad Guy. True to form, they both learn something from one another by the end and meet somewhere in the middle as they reach an understanding. Whilst Nick is only in it for revenge, David is haunted by the death of his brother in his childhood and wishes to make something of himself away from which acts as a parallel for his current working relationship with Nick.

Raul Julia is fine as criminal mastermind Strom, but he’s got very little to do beyond looking menacing and espousing the usual bad guy dialogue. To call him two dimensional would be a complement. But then as this is really about the partnership between the two cops, it’s understandable that the big bad will have little to define him beyond his evil master plan. Meanwhile the obligatory female accomplice is billed as being a classic attractive woman, but in reality nothing could be further from the truth. Sensual, yes, but doesn’t rate all that highly in terms of looks. She is also a character that lacks any other defining characteristics. Too much testosterone between Eastwood and Sheen overpowering everything else, clearly.

That blood stain's never going to wash out.
That blood stain’s never going to wash out.

The practical effects are an area in which The Rookie impresses, none more so than the epic fireball which punctuates the movie trailer. There’s something almost gratifying about seeing real cars being smashed up, or real flame bursting out of an exploding building. The action sequences are well choreographed albeit with a more measured tone and style that is typical of Eastwood’s work in the director’s chair.

Eastwood is not averse to poking fun at his own tough guy persona, his character having a penchant for a witty one liner and almost permanently having a cigar to hand. He mostly appears nonplussed at everything that’s taking place, which adds to the amusement. Throw in an equally deadpan Charlie Sheen – not averse to the odd comedic role himself, of course – and it’s a recipe that can’t really fail.

The Rookie had potential to be just another buddy cop movie, but the mixture of humour, solid action, entertaining story and Eastwood’s direction – and the performances, why not – all create a worthwhile product that make it much more than the generic tale that it appears to be on paper.

Score: 3.5/5

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