The Rookie has all the elements of a summer blockbuster: special effects, quick-snap wisecracks and a budget seemingly without limit. This film is supposed to be a police drama about the mystical brotherhood that all good honest American policemen seem to live by and their immortal struggle with foreign criminals. However not all is as it seems- this is no drama, there are elements of drama but this film is undoubtedly comedy. This could have been a source of great strength, the plot is dull and predictable but if the writer embraced the satire form this could have been a comment on previous police dramas including: The French Connection and The New Centurions. This could have been a departure for Clint Eastwood from the macho gun welding hero; as it is he doesn’t escape the stereotype and neither does the film.
The Rookie has many good points: there is an excellent calibre of criminal nickname- from ‘Loco Martinez’ through to ‘Little Felix’. Clearly the writer felt compelled to racially stereotype for comic value rather than plain old discrimination. This creativity certainly made me chuckle- which was refreshing though the dull plotline. The plot itself is an exercise in insipidity. After a sting operation goes sour and his partner is shot in the line of duty, policeman Nick Pulovski (Clint Eastwood) refuses to let the criminals get away this time. Intent on bringing them to justice he returns to work, only to be pared with the new kid: David Ackerman (Charlie Sheen). Nick has to show the new kid the ropes, while hunting down the criminals involved in his old partner’s death.
Meanwhile David has some problems of his own to contend with in his own head. For an attempt at an American millionaire’s son with brooding brother issues Charlie Sheen is surprisingly unrealistic. His character David, witnessed his brothers tragic death and since then his relationship with his father has suffered. Intent on proving himself worthy and protecting the people he loves- he becomes a police officer. His father, having lost one son already, wants to keep David safely at the office. The conflict has to be resolved in order for David to do his job and make (new father figure) Nick proud.
The film received a negative reaction by the critics and the audience alike. Time has done little to mature this film. Sex, Power and Money- the themes of this plot must have feel old at release. One of the antagonists, Liesl a sexually aggressive women, goes as far as to rape Nick (Clint Eastwood). This is undoubtedly the apex of drama- removing the mutual pleasure from the act of sex so it becomes about dominating another person. It is a gutsy to take this sort of material to Hollywood but I am far from convinced. The shooting of this act was not sympathetic and the act itself was not addressed later in the plot- it just happened.
On the other hand the special effects were wonderfully executed. The opening car chase is extraordinary and impossible in equal measure. However the film does commit overkill- the first half is relatively mundane and by the time you reach the final 20 minutes the invested interest in the characters will allow you some indulgence. During the production the team detonated the maximum amount of explosives they were allow within US city limits, flew a car though a window and chased the stars with a plane. The saving grace for films like this is the technical brilliance of the crew. Films such as Speed and Point Break would go on to develop fast cleaner and better special effects but in a similar vein to The Rookie.
The film is a mixed bag if there is nothing else on the television: why not. However I would not recommend going out of your way to watch this film. I expected more interaction and chemistry between the actors and was left with minor disappointment. Clint Eastwood would go on to refine his directorial style producing such films as Mystic River and Flag of Our Fathers. In both of those films he gives more thought and style to the subject matter. Being average is sometime more dangerous than being bad- because no one wants to talk about you anymore. This is the case with The Rookie.