Brian Henry Martin at the movies

Should Clint Retire?

Published Friday, 27 June 2014
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He's 84 years old and just directed his 36th film, the big screen adaptation of the hit musical Jersey Boys.

But with lukewarm reviews and mediocre box office, is it finally time for Clint Eastwood to hang up his director's hat?

Back in 2008, as the end credits rolled on Gran Torino, it felt like Clint Eastwood's extraordinary career had found the perfect finale. With rave reviews ringing in his ears, the four time Oscar winning producer, director and actor, seemed ready to ride off into the Hollywood sunset.

But not so. Since then, Eastwood has directed three very different but disappointing films; sporting strife, Invictus, supernatural hokum, Hereafter and boring biopic, J. Edgar. A glorious filmography was suddenly grinding into a muddle. So, it was with some trepidation that I went to see his latest film, a musical drama.

Jersey Boys tells the story of four young men from the wrong side of the tracks who came together in the 1960's to form the iconic American pop group The Four Seasons. Juvenile delinquents who became teenage heartthrobs with bubblegum ballads "Sherry", "Big Girls Don't Cry" and "Walk Like a Man".

Unfortunately, Eastwood is a fish out of water recreating the urban jungle of 1950's New Jersey, where the Italian American boys are influenced by mobsters money and Sinatra's success. This is the natural realm of director Martin Scorsese, which is only underlined by the appearance in a bowling alley of Joey Russo as Joe Pesci. "Yes, that Joe Pesci, the film actor" says one of The Four Seasons. Amazing, that a young Pesci was a real-life contemporary of the band.

Worst still, is when the characters intermittently talk directly to the audience, which must surely be a annoying hangover from the stage musical. This is plainly silly and only serves to deflate any drama. The one familiar face among the unknown cast is Christopher Walken as mob boss Gyp DeCarlo. Unfortunately, Walken does not get the opportunity to do what he does best and dance.

But why does Clint Eastwood care about these singing angels with dirty faces? This is puzzling as he has made a very dull film. Despite the group's trials and triumphs, Jersey boys is watchable but unremarkable. It bizarrely feels like Ken Loach making a daytime biography of Cliff Richard and The Shadows.

It lacks any of the directors trademark swagger. The camera plods and prods, rarely exciting or soaring in its movement. Can this really be from the same man that directed High Plains Drifter, The Outlaw Josey Wales and Unforgiven? The only trace of the real Clint Eastwood is to be found on a hotel TV, when one of the quartet watches an episode of Rawhide.

Should Clint Eastwood retire. On this evidence, sadly yes. But he is already making his new film, American Sniper starring Bradley Cooper, let's hope next time, he can hit the target.

Jersey Boys (Cert 12a) is now on general release.

© UTV News
B. H. Martin
B. H. Martin

Brian Henry Martin is an accomplished documentary filmmaker and UTV's resident film critic, appearing regularly on UTV Live Tonight.

No matter what the film, there's a good chance Brian has seen it.


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