Review: WHITE HUNTER, BLACK HEART (1990) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Saturday, 15 May 2010


Based on Peter Viertel’s roman a clef, WHITE HUNTER, BLACK HEART uses the making of a classic adventure movie, THE AFRICAN QUEEN (the one directed by the legendary John Huston) as the setting for a research into the creative process. Apart that, it also tells a story of one persuasive director as told by another and here star-producer-director Clint Eastwood plays a thinly disguised John Huston, only to be renamed as John Wilson.

The movie takes place in the circa of 1951, where Wilson has summoned an old friend, writer Pete Verrill (Jeff Fahey), to his Irish estate to hire him to polish his working script of his latest project – the title of which he never can remember that revolves a hard-drinking boat captain and a prissy schoolmarm who take on the German navy in Africa during WWII. All Wilson actually cares about is that the film will give him a fast draw of cash to put a dent in personal debts totaling a quarter of a million dollars. Also, he intends to make his new film in Africa in hopes to pursue his longtime dream of going big-game elephant hunting. Together with producer Paul Landers (George Dzundza, playing a role modeled on real-life producer Sam Spiegel) and potential backers immediately put the production on track, Wilson and Verrill begin working on the script. However a major dispute arises over the fate of the leading characters, who, in Wilson’s version, are killed, while Verrill insists they should live as the fair reward for their remarkable heroism. Soon, they head down to Africa but never intend to get ready for production at all except Wilson keeps making excuses for delaying the film so he can plan to kill an elephant.

WHITE HUNTER, BLACK HEART starts out ambitiously, with Clint Eastwood leads out one of his most colourful roles ever tackled in his longtime career. Graced with influential wit and intelligence, Eastwood plays John Wilson with such charm, especially the way how he shows his act of sarcasm displaying a sense of humour. But his acting never takes further as his personification of the post-Hemingway action hero seems rather limited. 

While the movie nevertheless entertaining in the way of Eastwood’s colorful performance, the movie soon takes a backseat. Most of the plot here backfire as it seems to be more determined on focusing Eastwood’s acting ego. Everything else here goes downhill as the rest of the supporting characters are strictly undermined.

And as a producer-cum-director, Eastwood is certainly lacks of clear and lean narrative approach. As evidently shown here in WHITE HUNTER, BLACK HEART; Eastwood takes a long detour, way too long to distinguish a competent plot in favour to showcase his acting pleasure. Generally not a good idea, the movie nevertheless drags and the almost two-hour length seems to be endless.

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