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CLINT'S "PINK CADILLAC" HAS A CLUNKY TRANSMISSION.

CLINT EASTWOOD has a rare, good-old-boy time in "Pink Cadillac." So does Bernadette Peters. It's rather a pity, then, that the movie is so rotten.

Just one year south of 60, Clint Eastwood seems to have his future career itinerary all mapped out. Increasing doses of comic self-parody seem to be on his Trip-Tik just as they once were for John Wayne, his predecessor in the laconic, rough rider trade. If Old Clint keeps on mocking his own image in public this way, he may yet get an Oscar (that, after all, is how his ancestor Duke snagged one for "True Grit").

Believe me, you've never seen the whispering avenger have this much fun with a part. It's the kind of cliched role he can do in his sleep (and often has) -- a bail bondsman's skiptracer chasing felons and absconding larcenists to Hell and gone in a beat-up old Plymouth. He does more mugging and pure uncut shtick than he's ever done -- motormouthing an impersonation of a jivemaster radio deejay, lisping and slurping his way through a turn as a cheery redneck survivalist, etc.

In fact, he and Bernadette Peters do such happy and simpatico work together as a couple on the lam that it isn't hard to figure why Eastwood asked screen and life co-star Sondra Locke to pack up and vacate the premises (it may have occurred to him how many movies he'd junked up with a somnambulist like Locke at his side when Bernadette Peters was around).

When Clint and Bernadette aren't hacking around in the movie, the movie is two-for-a-quarter. ("Midnight Run" anyone? Or TV's "The Fall Guy"? For that matter, does anyone else remember Steve McQueen's final movie "The Hunter"?)

"Pink Cadillac" is light on shooting and brawling, heavy on hacking around. Unfortunately, every bit of the shooting and brawling gets in the way and makes the movie seem interminable.

Bernadette plays the wife of a no-account loser whose "idiot-proof" schemes always turn out to be idiotic. She married him because "he was the coolest boy in San Bernadino -- 40,000 Heinekens ago."

His latest fiasco is to get involved with a bunch of homegrown fascists who call themselves "Birthright" -- a covey of speed-freak convicts who live in the woods and rage at all the racial impurities racing through the American blood stream.

When Bernadette gets busted for her husband's crimes, she takes revenge by driving off in his vintage pink Cadillac Eldorado (with tailfins as large as yacht sails) and $250,000 in Birthright spare change. Since she also forfeited a large pile of bail money, Clint follows suit.

Sexy badinage and romance follows. She purrs at him, smirks at him, and pours him Tequilas. He takes out his gum and drinks them. Things lead to things. But the movie keeps interrupting all of them with the numbskulled and mildly sadistic vapidities of the plot.

The director is Buddy Van Horn, an Eastwood buddy and trusted hireling of Malpaso (Eastwood's production company) when the majordomo is otherwise preoccupied with more important matters. In the case of this movie and the last Dirty Harry movie "The Dead Pool," the more important matters were Eastwood's film "Bird".

I don't think he gave a feather for this thing at all. It was just for laughs. It's too bad he didn't trust his dismissive instincts more and provide more of them.

Rated R and opening today in the University, Hoyts Walden Galleria, Market Arcade, Seneca and Summit Mall Theaters.

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