Under The Radar : Clint Eastwood, The Rookie (1990) - Clint Light
Updated: Nov 20, 2022
There are very few names in Hollywood that command attention and respect. And, when discussing movies and actors with anyone, eventually Clint Eastwood’s name comes up. Movies such as his Spaghetti/The Man With No Name Westerns, Dirty Harry, Million Dollar Baby and Grand Torino have solidified Eastwood’s mark as both an actor and a director.
So, whenever Eastwood comes out with a film, expectations are usually high. But alas, even Eastwood is human and has some of his films just don’t meet our expectations or standards and one of those films; that has quietly disappeared over the years, is 1990’s The Rookie.
The film is about a seasoned detective Nick Pulovski (Eastwood) who must pair up with rookie David Ackerman (Charlie Sheen) after Pulovski’s partner is killed by a car thief, called Strom (Raul Julia). Even though Pulovski is pulled off his partner’s case, he makes it his personal mission to seek out revenge on the man who killed his partner, much to the dismay of his by-the-book new partner Ackerman.
Well, the film was promoted as a buddy-cop movie. Since Clint Eastwood was already established and Charlie Sheen was being primed for big box office star (hence the pairing up with Eastwood), The Rookie seemed to have everything going for it. If you were a studio executive at Warner Bros., on paper, The Rookie looked like a sure-fire hit. I mean come on! The movie had Clint staring and directing and Charlie Sheen who was blazing hot after the success of Platoon and Wall Street. The film had action, comedy, catch-phrases, explosions, a good villain and a sexy vixen. It seemed like a no brainer. The Rookie should have been the next Lethal Weapon. Well at least could have? Eastwood gave the studio exactly what they wanted. He dotted his i’s and crossed his t’s. When you watch the film, it looks like Eastwood even goes as far as giving the audience the second coming of one his most iconic characters. Pulovski is pretty much a light-hearted version Harry Callaghan (Dirty Harry). Replacing one catch phrase "Do I feel lucky?" for “Got a Light?”. Just give Pulovski a .44 magnum and its Dirty Harry. The only difference is that Pulovski is tad less intense than Callaghan.
Its release was meet with lackluster reviews, and although the film did make money, it wasn’t the smash hit everyone was hoping for. The film was seen by most critics as a paint-by-numbers, generic action film. Personally, I always had a soft spot for The Rookie and it’s become a guilty pleasure for me over the years. So, what went wrong?
From my understanding, Eastwood wanted to get out of the action genre that made him famous and in turn make other types of films like, White Hunter Black Heart. So, Eastwood “played the game” with Warner Bros. Studio by making a box-office hit and in return he gained his creative freedom for his own film projects.
I really think Eastwood just breezed through the making of The Rookie; first because he worked notoriously fast when directing his films and second because if he could get it out of the way, he could move on to what he really wanted to do; complete his own film projects. I really believe that The Rookie had the potential to be a good action film except it was never fully developed. I also believe Eastwood did this purposely in order to avoid being contractually bound to make sequels or similar action type films. Besides, it “technically” it wasn’t Eastwood’s fault that the film failed to resonate with the movie going public, wink, wink. Like I said, he gave the studio exactly what they wanted, an accessible Dirty Harry style vehicle, with an easy to follow narrative.
Don’t get me wrong, The Rookie isn’t a great film by a long shot. The effects are lame and some of the acting is stiff, to say the least. However, the film is just fun; nothing more- nothing less and it merits at least one viewing in your life time.