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Overall Rating

Awesome: 17.44%
Worth A Look31.4%
Average: 26.74%
Pretty Bad: 17.44%
Total Crap: 6.98%

8 reviews, 38 user ratings

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Space Cowboys
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by Rob Gonsalves

"A bit of a regression for Clint."
3 stars

Clint Eastwood's movies have become more interesting as subtext than as text.

His previous film, True Crime, and his new one, Space Cowboys, are both about beating the clock -- finding evidence to exonerate a condemned man before he gets executed, reconfiguring an out-of-control satellite -- but they're really about beating the clock in the larger sense. These movies were made by a man (Eastwood is now 70) who has begun to recognize that, as his character says here, "the clock is ticking and I'm not getting any younger."

Space Cowboys has a somewhat dispiriting sub-subtext as well. The premise has four over-the-hill flyboys -- Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, James Garner, and Donald Sutherland -- proving their mettle one last time as NASA shoots them into space to deal with an unstable Russian satellite. The movie feels as though Eastwood is proving that he can play the same game as young whippersnappers like Michael Bay (Armageddon), and also that you don't have to be Ben Affleck to carry a big-budget summer movie. Trouble is, Eastwood is -- or should be -- above this degraded game. This is the man who deservedly won the Oscar for directing the great and powerful Unforgiven; he has nothing to prove to anyone.

The movie plays like an Eastwood version of Armageddon, which is sometimes for the best: Where Michael Bay was hyperactive, Eastwood is calm and unhurried; where Bay fractured his actors' work beyond recognition with his A.D.D. editing, Eastwood allows himself and his co-stars to breathe, to interact, to have moments that are unnecessary in the cold terms of plot but manage to give us a keener sense of the people we're spending two hours with. The scenes in which Eastwood tracks down his old buddies (or, in one case, old rival), and the sequences in which the four creaky men endure rigorous astronaut training, are unavoidably winning, and Eastwood never lets the old-age humor lapse into the crudity of, say, a late-period Lemmon-Matthau comedy about doddering codgers in space.

Eastwood and friends have their obstacles on the ground, of course: the younger astronauts aren't sure their elders can hack it, and Eastwood butts heads with NASA officials James Cromwell (give him another Babe movie, because he's played this same guy about ten times) and William Devane (who plays a similar cynical bigwig in the contemporaneous Hollow Man). As in True Crime, the plot of Space Cowboys is the smallest thing it has going for it. And I'm not sure that a relaxed treatment of tense outer-space moments is the way to go. The last half hour -- the climax we're supposedly here for -- is flat-out dull. Eastwood has indeed proven that he can direct special-effects scenes every bit as boringly as a younger director.

This isn't an auspicious millennial debut for Eastwood. He began the '90s with the compelling White Hunter, Black Heart, in which he played a character based on John Huston; perhaps Eastwood should take a page from Huston and show his vitality not by directing young man's movies, but by picking difficult projects and breathing life into them. Eastwood needs to understand that the audience that used to hoot and holler when he blew away punks has grown along with him. He's taken chances throughout his directing career, and maybe this is just his new-model Firefox -- his attempt to reassure the studio that he still has commercial instincts and isn't going to withdraw totally into artsy money-losers like Bird and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

For now, though, we understand Eastwood can still direct, and we realize he's starting to think about his mortality. What next?

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originally posted: 01/20/07 15:31:37
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User Comments

3/25/18 morris campbell boring old geezer action flick 1 stars
6/28/17 FireWithFire Would've been good - with actors better than Dead-ass Sutherland and Jones in their parts. 3 stars
1/03/10 Jeff Wilder Nothing new. But fun and likable. 4 stars
1/27/09 Shaun Wallner Interesting Movie! 4 stars
9/28/07 mr.mike OK effort from The Man. 4 stars
1/08/04 A F Oh man! Damn old people! I'm going to take a nap. 2 stars
9/01/03 John Bale Veteran screen stars prove their worth in saving the planet. Amusing Sci Fi Drama. 4 stars
4/05/03 R.W. Welch Not bad for a bunch of old guys; pretty well constructed. 4 stars
1/04/03 Jack Sommersby One of Eastwood's worst. The pits. 1 stars
7/09/02 Danielle Ophelia Lightweight, though nowhere near fluff. The ending is almost MORBID. 4 stars
1/08/02 Andrew Carden Reminds You Of How An All-Star Cast Can Fail So Quickly. 1 stars
10/10/01 Butterbean IEastwood and Jones together, wow! And they picked a perfect guy to play the young Eastwood 4 stars
9/02/01 radium Nice acting, nice dialogs, nice sound fx 5 stars
8/01/01 hoppilong this script needs a triple dose of viagra. The relationships are all shallow. 2 stars
7/02/01 Phil M. Afficianado Erik the Movieman has the Daedalus honing in on Icon. Great fun. 4 stars
6/21/01 J Here is one movie that I mainly agree with Cochise on. 5 stars
5/02/01 Monday Morning You young punks can eat our tattered boxers...this is a great adventure flick for guys. 5 stars
5/01/01 The Bomb 69 funny stuff, not great but good 4 stars
11/09/00 Patti Boring, boring, boring, stupid, and boring 1 stars
10/22/00 Anthony This film was really good 5 stars
10/21/00 Tank Merging special effects and characterisation Eastwood shows it can work. 4 stars
10/20/00 Viking Not a great film but still fun to watch 4 stars
9/08/00 Jed Funny & Suspenseful! One of the years best! 5 stars
8/27/00 Joe Smaltz Very good, had well done special effects, but did not substitute them for content. 5 stars
8/21/00 ClintEastwoodIsCreepy This movie was *so* boring 1 stars
8/18/00 Narf Outstanding first 90 min, then things move along to swiftly to a blase denoument. 4 stars
8/14/00 KoHawk Predictable, boring, somewhat funny. Anti climactic. 3 stars
8/09/00 Poetcdh Entertaining, good chemistry between actors 5 stars
8/09/00 PJ Movie kicked ass! For all you ignorant's that say its for old people, I feel sorry for you 5 stars
8/09/00 Manda It had it's moments. Wait for it on video 3 stars
8/08/00 Captain Highcrime "Armageddon" for the "Murder She Wrote" crowd. 4 stars
8/08/00 extar-bags Good all around. Funny, yet serious. 4 stars
8/07/00 The Rock It was stupid,repetitive, and cliched 1 stars
8/07/00 Jim Kidd I cant say anything but that this movie rocks 5 stars
8/06/00 chuck Entertaining, funny 4 stars
8/05/00 Rue the Whirl It's a Russian doomsday machine! 3 stars
8/04/00 TimmyToday Blast off to boredom and beyond. 2 stars
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  05-Oct-2000 (PG)

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