Clint Eastwood has now directed a kazillion movies -- OK, I count 31 feature films, the bulk of them made since 1990 -- and while some are good, some are bad and a whole bunch are in between, let's say this: They're all watchable. He knows where to put the camera and appreciates elegant, restrained cinematography. Actors like to work with him because he doesn't waste their time or try to get inside their heads, and he prefers understated, even dry performances, whether he's making a hard-boiled crime flick or a sentimental weeper.
I'm totally fine with cutting Eastwood a break based on his undeniable status as a national treasure and an iconic figure in Hollywood history. As certain friends are happy to remind me, I've definitely overpraised some of his mediocre outings. But as Clint has grown older and backed away from acting in his own films (he's appeared in only two of his last eight directorial projects), the movies themselves have lost personality and vigor. "Million Dollar Baby" and "Gran Torino" are pictures that have many fans and many haters, but both possess an intensity and specificity of vision you just don't see in handsome, dull, big-budget vehicles like "Changeling" or "Invictus."
See www.salon.com for full review