From the Archive: The Rookie


When we were doing the radio program The Reel Thing, we got press kits from a few studios and promotion house, but much of the time we had few supplemental resources (of course, there was also no internet to spill every piece of data we might need). So I distinctly remember sitting through the credits for The Rookie with an intense focus, trying to make certain I had Pepe Serna’s name correct for the review. I knew I’d made the right choice in singling the actor out when me colleague on the other side of the broadcast board laughed and nodded when I read that line. White Hunter, Black Heart was on my top ten list for 1990. The Rookie was my choice for worst film on the year. Like the cardboard badge above? It can be yours for twelve dollars!

Earlier this year, Clint Eastwood delivered one of his best films and one of his bravest performances with WHITE HUNTER, BLACK HEART. Perhaps then it is strangely fitting that this year he also deliver one of his worst performances in one of his worst films. That film is the brand new holiday season release THE ROOKIE.

THE ROOKIE pairs Eastwood with Charlie Sheen. Sheen plays a young police office with only two years on the force who gets Eastwood as a partner so that Eastwood can teach him the gritty ropes of working in the Auto Theft Division of the Los Angeles police force. Eastwood is a tough guy to the core, smoking cigars, and swearing up a storm. Sheen is a straight-laced, neat dressing, rule-following rookie, clean and nice and pure of heart. Of course they don’t like each other at first. Of course they grow to like each other.

The villain here is played by Raúl Juliá, an actor who has been growing more interesting and compelling with every performance, until now that is. Onscreen here, he’s bland and stiff. In fact, THE ROOKIE strives to take a talented cast and make them all look like fools. Lara Flynn Boyle of TV’s TWIN PEAKS shows up as Sheen’s girlfriend who’s worried about his welfare and also serves the purpose of being in danger when Sheen needs a major movie hero moment. Sônia Braga also makes the mistake of signing on to this picture, playing Raúl Juliá’s girlfriend who’s either being stupidly seductive or firing a machine gun while unleashing a banshee scream. In a film full of misguided and simply bad performances, one must naturally stick out as being exceptionally awful, and that dubious honor goes to Pepe Serna as the loudmouthed, simple-minded police lieutenant in charge of Eastwood and Sheen’s department.

This film asks us to be proud of Sheen because he’s grown tough enough to burn down a bar filled with people and ride a motorcycle without his helmet. It also asks us to believe that Sonia Braga would be very turned on because Eastwood spits water in her face. The blame for all the wasted celluloid should probably fall on the shoulders of Clint Eastwood. Not only does he take the starring role, he also sat in the director’s chair. It’s extremely hard to guess why a man whose instincts had previously led him to such quality cop pictures as TIGHTROPE, COOGAN’S BLUFF, and DIRTY HARRY series would sign on for THE ROOKIE, among the most vapid of the continuing flow of buddy-cop movies that Hollywood will apparently never tire of cranking out. To say that THE ROOKIE is bad is an insult to bad films. It’s reprehensible.

0 stars, out of 4.

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