Tightrope (1984)
Directed by Richard Tuggle

Artistic & Entertainment Value
* * *

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A New Orleans police detective, Wes Block (Clint Eastwood), and his partner, Det. Molinari (Dan Hedaya), are assigned to investigate a series of murders of young prostitutes. Soon thereafter, the killer begins harming those close to Block, and the detective grows increasingly concerned for his two daughters while, at the same time, becoming romantically involved with a psychiatrist, Beryl Thibodeaux (Geneviève Bujold), who runs a rape crisis center.

Richard Tuggle's police thriller Tightrope may not be a particularly noteworthy film, but it is, nevertheless, genuinely entertaining.

Although there is not much in the director's narration of Block's investigation into the killings of the prostitutes that significantly differentiates it from portrayals of similar investigations that can be found in countless other police films, his depiction of the protagonist himself is occasionally surprising. The viewer is made aware that Block's sexual appetites include a penchant for handcuffing his partners and that he has indulged such proclivities with some of the women with whom his current investigation has brought him into contact. The character, consequently, emerges as a far more complex individual than are the generally dull heroes of most police tales.

Neither Block's relationship with his daughters nor that which he develops with Beryl is nearly as intriguing as is Block himself, but Tuggle does deal with these competently. The viewer is given a sense both of the difficulties the character faces as a single father of two girls and of his love for his children. Such details may not be brilliantly handled, but they are not fumbled either. The romance that evolves between Block and Beryl is somewhat more engaging, but it is, in many ways, the standard courtship of a mismatched pair that so many directors seem to love to portray. The lack of sentimentality with which it is related, as well as the emotional shortcomings of Eastwood's character do, however, give it some depth and do allow the viewer to be affected by it.

Even though the director does spend a substantial amount of time bringing out Block's character, the core of the movie is constituted by the protagonist's investigation of the murders being committed. I will concede that I was never enthralled by this story, but, even if it is presented in an undistinguished manner, it is not, by any means, ineptly told. The viewer may never find himself completely immersed in the complexities of the investigation or infused with feelings of tense anxiety, but he is likely to be interested by the events as they are unfolded to him. To put it simply, the story is not captivating, but it is enjoyable.

Although Tightrope is never genuinely memorable, it is still a competently made film that is worth watching.

Review by Keith Allen

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