Politics as Homicide

If Murray Rothbard were alive and were writing his occasional reviews of films as Mr. First Nighter, he would love the movie Absolute Power.

Directed and produced by Clint Eastwood, it stars Clint and Gene Hackman in superb performances. The great E. G. Marshall is equally excellent, in his last film appearance.

Clint is an aging cat burglar, Hackman is the one with absolute power—he is the murdering, philandering, and totally charming President of the United States. In the course of burglarizing the estate of an old, politically powerful billionaire, played by Marshall, Eastwood witnesses Hackman’s drunken attempted rape of Marshall’s trampy, attractive, and much younger wife. She struggles violently, and is shot dead by the president’s confidential aides.

They discover that Eastwood was a hidden witness to the murder, and decide to “terminate him with extreme prejudice”—the jargon that CIA killers use for their killings. Eastwood decides he must flee the country, but two things stop him.

On TV he sees the memorial service for Marshall’s wife and the president in crocodile tears as he delivers a eulogy. Clint whispers to himself, “you shameless whore.” After thinking it over, the president tells his aides that Clint’s daughter, played by Laura Linney, is a danger and also has to be terminated: “maybe what he knows she knows.” Even his closest aides are uneasy, but he plays his trump card: “Don’t you love your country?” and they go to it.

Though Linney is estranged from her dad, Eastwood feels–rather strongly–that his daughter’s murder is “totally unacceptable.” He manages to evade his killers, finally bringing Marshall over to his side. When he explains Hackman’s betrayal to the old gentleman, a baffled Marshall protests, “But I gave him the presidency.”

Eastwood saves his daughter (barely) and turns the tables on his would-be assassins: now he’s the one stalking Hackman. The non-stop action of this first-rate political thriller culminates in a highly satisfying surprise ending.

I’d love to have seen Murray’s review.