Clint Eastwood has been stuck in this rut for a while. Since the near-perfect Unforgiven the wily icon has worked this never-too-old guff to the bone (bodyguards, sodden hacks, cat burglars) and with Space Cowboys - kind of gimmers-do-Armageddon - this has teetered into ludicrous self-parody.
Certainly, its great to see these four wizened hard-hitters taking the lead in a big movie, and they can still hold a screen with some force. The charisma bubbling between them is the films chief asset - in one amusing medical they allow their sagging butts to be displayed to camera. Yet the gossamer-thin plot is woefully ramshackle, half-heartedly throwing in new features to keep the flagging drama stoked. Theres a barmy Cold War element; theres rivalry with the young upstarts (Loren Dean and Courtney Vance) getting up the nose of snotty old NASA suit, Gerson (Cromwell); and a limp romance sparks between Hawk and pretty scientist Sara Holland (Marcia Gay Harden). By the end, it seems to be imitating Apollo 13, Moonraker and every disaster movie cliché in the book, finally exposing itself to the dread of sentimentality - and even then without conviction.
As a comedy it creaks, as Eastwoods zimmer-paced direction labours to get to punchlines - the film could have been 30 minutes shorter had a few jokes landed on time - while the brazen sense of exaggeration is constantly at odds with the weight of Eastwoods presence. Worse still, its central message is demeaning to old folk, as dignity and pride only come care of pretending to be young. At your age Clint, you should know better.