If you want to talk about box office longevity, consider the fact Clint Eastwood scored two of his largest grossing hits after he turned 75: American Sniper and Gran Torino. Yet, you couldn’t get much more “outlaw” in Hollywood than endorsing Trump in 2016. (However, Eastwood was subsequently disappointed by the chaos, because he actually had experience governing as mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea.) The remarkable career of the jazz-loving actor-director is surveyed somewhat fannishly in Clint Eastwood: Hollywood Outlaw, which airs tomorrow night on Reelz.
It is immediately clear a career as long and accomplished as Eastwood’s cannot be done justice in an hour-long special. Frankly, the same was true of Richard Schickel’s Eastwood Directs, a DVD extra-doc that had a special screening at Tribeca, which was a bit longer and predated Sniper, Sully, The Mule, and Richard Jewell. Still, it offers us an opportunity take stock of the legendary maverick and make note of films we want to revisit, which is the point of this review. For instance, Firefox is only seen in passing, but it is a nifty espionage-techno-thriller.
Regardless, Hollywood Outlaw, from supervising producer-director Randy Martin and writer-producer Travis Mabrey is a brisk tribute that provides a decent thumbnail of the man and his movies. Happily, there is indeed a clip from his uncredited debut in the classic Revenge of the Creature. They duly cover Rawhide, the Spaghetti Westerns, Dirty Harry, his work as a director, including his first foray, Play Misty for Me, and his Oscar winners, Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby. Strangely though, they give rather short shrift to Sniper, which remains his top grossing film of all time.
Logically, Richard Jewell gets considerable time, since it is his most recent. Happily for jazz fans, Bird gets an overdue ovation, but all the great non-fiction music documentaries he has helped shepherd, like Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser and Dave Brubeck: In His Own Sweet Way go unmentioned—that is probably a logical editorial choice, but it just shows Martin and Mabrey really needed more time to tackle Eastwood’s body of work.
Hollywood Outlaw are Eastwood biographers, but there are extensive soundbites from Paul Walter Hauser (Richard Jewell), Ryan Phillippe (Flags of Our Fathers), Kevin Bacon (Mystic River), Spencer Stone (one of the real life heroes who played himself in The 15:17 to Paris), and his son Kyle Eastwood (Honkey Tonk Man, among others).
It is all competent and professional, but it definitely leaves you wanting more. In a way, that is sort of the reason for watching. Hollywood Outlaw certainly puts you in the mood to binge Eastwood movies, which is something. Bird (nicely covered) and his sleeper White Hunter Black Heart (sadly ignored) are two good ones to start with. Recommended as a watchable clips-and-talking-heads package (but it just scratches the surface), Clint Eastwood: Hollywood Outlaw premieres tomorrow night (10/24) on Reelz.