Vital Signs

Reel Crimes, True Illusions

True Crime
Produced by Malpaso Productions
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Screenplay by Andrew Klavan and Larry Gross
Released by Warner Bros.

The Matrix
Produced by Groucho II Film Partnership
and Silver Pictures
Directed by Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski
Screenplay by Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski
Released by Warner Bros.

Clint Eastwood's True Crime lives up to its name: It is a truly criminal assault on our credulity. With numbing predictability, it recycles the old deathrow execution-eve story.

The condemned man is Frank Beachum, the quintessential victim, an innocent black man in the wrong place at the wrong time. He is played by Isaiah Washington with a studied, almost airless nobility that is, amazingly, one of the few convincing touches in this otherwise preposterous film.

Beachum has been fingered by a mealy-mouthed white accountant—nicely played by Michael Jeter—who stumbled upon a botched hold-up and saw what his racist mind wanted to believe. Need I add that Beachum is a solid family man with a devoted wife and darling daughter?

Enter our hero: Clint Eastwood as Steve Everett, recovering alcoholic, inveterate womanizer, and unrepentant smoker. He is feckless and reckless, but he has got this "nose for truth." No, I am not kidding; it...

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