Review of Blood Work (2002)

Each month, I look for a movie or TV show to review for FBI policy and procedural accuracy. Blood Work popped up during an online search. With its high pedigree of stars and big name author, I was surprised I had never heard of the film. Since I’ve released several episodes featuring retired agents who were assigned to the Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU), I thought a movie about a retired FBI profiler would be perfect to review. Here’s the IMDb summary:

Still recovering from a heart transplant, retired FBI profiler Terry McCaleb (Clint Eastwood) returns to service when his own blood analysis offers clues to the identity of a serial killer. Adapted from a novel by Michael Connelly and staring and directed by Clint Eastwood. Jeff Daniels, Anjelica Huston, Tina Lifford are also in the film.

Blood WorkIn the opening scene of Blood Work, FBI Profiler Terry McCaleb is still on the job. He literally badges his way onto a LAPD murder crime scene. The only problem is, in the FBI we are all about those “creds.” Our credentials certified that the bearer “whose signature and photograph appear hereon, is a regularly appointed special agent (applicable employee position inserted) of the FBI.” It is carried in a wallet-like leather case. An agent’s badge may be affixed to the outside front of the creds or worn on their belt. Listen to me carefully. If someone claims they’re an agent and flashes a little gold badge at you, shake your head, wag your finger in their face and ask to see their creds.

During the movie, FBI profiler Terry said that he had to qualify at the range once a year. Nope. Try four times a year. Each field office has a Principal Firearms Instructor (PFI) who is responsible for continued firearms training for all agents and schedules all shoots within the division’s territory. Throughout their careers, FBI agents, even those assigned to management positions at FBI Headquarters, must attend four shoots annually. The PFI keeps track of attendance and scores. There were several shootouts during the movie. Terry, Terry, Terry! Once a year? No wonder you couldn’t hit your target.

One of the most memorable scenes (not in a good way) was such a shootout. In an attempt to stop a car (don’t ask), Terry the profiler and Detective Jaye Winston from a local Sheriff Office fired off tons of rounds from a shotgun and semi-automatic pistol. The driver gets away. Immediately afterward, Terry the profiler wants to leave to pursue their next lead. Here’s an excerpt from their conversation:

Detective Winston –        “Let’s go? We just shot up half the valley!”
Terry the FBI Profiler –   “Did you hit anybody?”
Detective Winston –         “No. Thank God.”
Terry the FBI Profiler –   “Let’s go. Neither did I.”

Priceless dialogue. Now, at that point of the movie Terry the FBI Profiler has retired. But in real life, Detective Winston and her civilian sidekick would have a lot of explaining to do. In the FBI, all shooting incidents, even the accidental discharge of a weapon by an agent, are investigated and reviewed. When a weapon is fired in a situation involving a criminal matter, a shooting incident review group is deployed to where the shooting occurred, and information is gathered to determine if the agent involved was operating within the scope of the FBI’s deadly force policy and in accordance with FBI training and procedures. Agents are permitted to fire their weapons only if they have a reasonable belief that a situation presents an imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury to themselves or others. A simple accidental discharge can be investigated by the special agent in charge. However, if the incident resulted in injuries or fatalities, FBI Headquarters deploys a team to review the incident. All shooting incident reviews are made with the cooperation and assistance of local law enforcement to further determine if any local or state laws were violated (from Chapter 14 of FBI Myths and Misconceptions: A Manual for Armchair Detectives).

The movie has the required police procedural twist ending. Did I enjoy watching Blood Work? That’s really not the point. I’m just here to show you how the FBI works. I hope you picked up a new lesson or two. Blood Work is available for rent on Prime Video. You can watch the official trailer here.

To listen to true stories featuring FBI profilers and the BAU check out these FBI Retired Case File Review episodes.

Jerri Williams

View posts by Jerri Williams
Jerri Williams, a retired FBI agent, author and podcaster, jokes that she writes about the FBI to relive her glory days. After 26 years with the Bureau specializing in major economic fraud and corruption investigations, she calls on her professional encounters with scams and schemers to write police procedurals inspired by true crime FBI cases in her Philadelphia FBI Corruption Squad crime fiction series featuring flawed female FBI agent Kari Wheeler. Jerri’s FBI for Armchair Detectives nonfiction series enables readers to discover who the FBI is and what the FBI does by debunking misconceptions about the FBI in books, TV, and movies. Her books are available as ebooks, paperbacks, and audiobooks wherever books are sold. She’s also the host of FBI Retired Case File Review, a true crime podcast with more than 250 episodes available for free on all popular podcast apps.

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