Consider the amazing career of Clint Eastwood.
The iconic actor has film credits that stretch all the way back to the 1950s and is considered one of the most respected actors of all time.
But in recent years Eastwood has reinvented himself as one of the top American directors with films like “Mystic River,” “Million Dollar Baby” and “Unforgiven.”
Now Eastwood fans get the best of both worlds with his latest, “Gran Torino,” a film that showcases his talents in front of and behind the camera.
Eastwood makes his first appearance in front of the camera in four years, playing Walt Kowalski, a disgruntled Korean War veteran who has just lost his wife and, despite his children’s wishes, is determined to continue to live in his rundown neighborhood.
When a young Hmong teenager named Thao (Bee Vang) tries to steal Kowalski’s prized 1972 Gran Torino, the pair form an unlikely friendship that also includes Thao’s older sister, Sue (Ahney Her).
While the ads for “Gran Torino” suggest an older “Dirty Harry,” the film is much more.
Eastwood’s character is a complex study of an aging man wrestling with his personal demons. Credit Eastwood for playing a character who isn’t a very nice person - he’s a grumpy racist who is obviously alone and miserable - and making the character’s ultimate redemption both satisfying and believable.
Vang and Her are both fine, considering they were hired by Eastwood because of their inexperience as actors, and Christopher Carley has some good moments as a neighborhood priest trying to help a reluctant Walt deal with his demons.
But this is Eastwood’s movie. It is rumored this could be the 78-year-old’s final film performance. If that is the case, Eastwood goes out on top - creating one of his most memorable characters in his rather impressive acting resume.
DVD dandy of the week
This week’s dandy is “Pineapple Express,” B-, the latest adult comedy from Judd Apatow, the man behind “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” “Knocked Up” and “Superbad.”
Apatow only gets producer and story credits (with “Express” co-star Seth Rogan and “Superbad” co-writer Evan Goldberg), but this still has all the elements of an Apatow film, with a few more misses and a few less hits.
Rogan stars as Dale Denton, a stoner working as a process server who accidentally witnesses a murder by a crooked cop (Rosie Perez) and a ruthless drug lord (Gary Cole).
Dale soon discovers the weed he just purchased from his dealer, Saul (James Franco), is a rare strain that the drug lord can trace back to him, forcing Dale and Saul to run for their lives.
“Express” definitely has some memorable moments, but the film suffers in comparison to films like “Superbad” and “Knocked Up.”
The stoners are essentially the same kind of slacker characters seen in Cheech and Chong movies, or even “Half Baked,” although they’re in a film that feels a little more high brow (or as high brow as you can get with pothead humor).
To Rogan’s and Franco’s credit, both give performances that are a cut above their clich/d characters - especially Franco, who is able to generate chuckles with a simple clueless facial expression.
Rogan and Franco are aided by several funny supporting performances, including Danny R. McBride as Saul’s supplier and Craig Robinson as a sensitive hit man trying to track down Dale and Saul.
The script is also full of little moments - look for Dale’s interaction with his high school girlfriend and her family - that really tease that the film is about to completely take off. Unfortunately, director David Gordon Green, who directed the indie-sensation “Snow Angels,” is never able to sustain any comic momentum, mainly because the film has such a violent undertone to it.
Don’t get me wrong, “Express” is still good enough that I left entertained - just not nearly as much as I hoped I would.
“Pineapple Express” is rated R for pervasive language, drug use, sexual references and violence and is available on DVD.
— Sportswriter/movie reviewer Micheal Compton, who’s just giddy that Peyton “Every Other Commercial” Manning took an early exit from the NFL Playoffs, can be reached by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.