August 19, 2002 12:00 PM

Clint Eastwood, Wanda De Jesus, Jeff Daniels, Anjelica Huston

The best thing about Clint Eastwood as a director has always been his lack of pretense. It’s also his greatest drawback. His style of directing, much like the characters he portrays, is straight-ahead and unadorned. This is certainly true of Blood Work, a workmanlike suspense thriller about retired FBI agent Terry McCaleb (Eastwood), who, two months after undergoing a successful heart transplant, is approached by a woman (De Jesus) who wants him to find her sister’s killer. Why McCaleb? The dead sister’s heart now ticks in his chest.

It’s easy to enjoy Work for what it is: a well crafted, crisply paced film about a smart, if a step slower, lawman. Eastwood, his voice now a sandpaper whisper, gives a confident, comfortable performance. There are juicy turns by Huston as McCaleb’s disapproving cardiologist, Daniels as a lazy neighbor and Tina Lifford (2000’s Pay It Forward) as a helpful former protégée. But one can’t help wishing, as Work heads to its ordinary end, that Eastwood would sometimes challenge himself, and viewers, a smidgen more. (R)

Bottom Line: B-positive

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