The Rookie at 30 with Clint Eastwood & Charlie Sheen

Plot: Police Det. Nick Pulovski (Clint Eastwood) isn’t so happy when he gets paired with young rookie David Ackerman (Charlie Sheen). Ackerman should have cause for concern too: Most of Pulovski’s partners have ended up in body bags. But they’ll have to get along if they want to take down the car-theft ring whose leaders (Raul Julia, Sonia Braga) are responsible for the death of the veteran’s last partner. Does it matter that Pulovski’s been pulled off the case? Not a bit.

This year (December to be precise) marks the 30th anniversary of The Rookie starring Clint Eastwood and Charlie Sheen so I figured I would do a write up on it now seeing as I watched it last night.

When The Rookie first came out back in 1990 it wasn’t greeted with many positive reviews sitting at 29% on Rotten Tomatoes; I’ll admit the movie does have its flaws (which I’ll get to) but I’ve really grown to love it over the years.

Clint Eastwood is on cigar chomping badass form with a running joke throughout that he’s always looking for a light; Charlie Sheen plays his new partner Ackerman who is not particularly relatable or even likable. Ackerman is riddled with guilt after a childhood accident where his brother died and he can’t help blaming himself for it. This gives him a chip on his shoulder so he has no interest in living off his family’s wealth but wants to do his own thing and becomes a cop. Pulovski and Ackerman (as with any buddy film) don’t get on at first but they build up a reluctant partnership to take down local criminal Strom (played by the late Raul Julia) all while trading insults and one-liners.

The supporting cast is a who’s who of old-school action cinema including Tom Skerritt, Marco Rodriguez, Thomas Rosales Jr., Xander Berkeley and Paul Ben-Victor with Sônia Braga stealing every scene as the sadistic (and horny) Liesl.

Raul Julia always made for a fun bad guy and Strom is a desperate man who owes people a lot of money and will stop at nothing to get it. Liesl essentially rapes Pulovski in one scene which makes for awkward viewing and I remember it caused a little controversy at the time too.

Eastwood directs the film and I’ve always thought it could have been tighter in terms of pacing as it does go on a little longer than it needs to; the action is well done however, with some spectacular set-pieces and the car driving out of the exploding building was the money shot from the trailer. I always loved the climax at the airport which must have been a logistical nightmare to set up and the opening car chase was also impressive.

My favourite scene has always been Ackerman returning to the bar and setting it on fire while fighting various goons; it really shows how he is on the edge but will also do anything for his partner/friend.

This is an action movie so real world logic certainly doesn’t apply but I always found it hard to swallow that by the end Ackerman would have been promoted; I mean he burned down said bar, shot some dogs and beat up and killed lots of people. I’m pretty sure he would be in jail for a very long time but then again…

The music score wasn’t particularly memorable but it did the job and didn’t stand out in any way good or bad.

I was reading on IMDB that according to the book “Clint Eastwood A Cultural Production” by Paul Smith, during the early stages of principal photography, Charlie Sheen had substance abuse problems. Eastwood reportedly took on a father-figure role in disciplining Sheen into responsible behavior. Good thing that worked out…

I always thought this could easily have been another entry in the Dirty Harry series as it has that kind of feel with Eastwood spouting dialogue like “There’s gotta be a hundred reasons why I don’t blow you away. Right now I can’t think of one.”

Overall, The Rookie may be a little longer than it needs to be but it is still packed with some incredible set-pieces with Eastwood and Sheen on fine form as reluctant partners and Raul Julia making for an entertaining villain.