Space Cowboys

The ripe stuff. Our heroes (Eastwood, Jones, Garner, Sutherland) find it a challenge to get back into shape before blastoff...
dir Clint Eastwood
scr Ken Kaufman, Howard Klausner
with Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland, James Garner, James Cromwell, Marcia Gay Harden, Loren Dean, Courtney B Vance, William Devane, Blair Brown, Rade Sherbedgia, Barbara Babcock
Warners 00/US 3 out of 5 stars
Review by Rich Cline
Actor-producer-director Eastwood does the big Hollywood blockbuster thing with Space Cowboys, basically a geriatric version of Armageddon. And while it's a bit more intelligent than its predecessor, it's also cursed with a terrible plotline that basically just substitutes a renegade satellite for a killer comet. But then, the plot isn't the reason you want to see this film; its main attraction is seeing these old guys strut their stuff. And that they do!

Frank, Hawk, Jerry and Tank (Eastwood, Jones, Sutherland and Garner) were ace test pilots back in the '50s, sidelined by their slimy boss (Cromwell) when Nasa was created. But now Nasa and their former boss need their help to rescue a Russian communications satellite that's falling out of orbit. For some reason they're the only ones who can do the job, but they must meet the rigours of Nasa training alongside the two younger members of the mission team (Dean and Vance). Of course, after the shuttle blasts off everything conceivable goes wrong--technical troubles, sabotage, stupidity, terrible truths and, naturally, brave heroics.

The story is just so predictable that it's painful to watch--anyone who's ever seen a big-budget action film knows exactly what's coming next. And the only joys left are when the actors flash their witty personalities with the rare fragment of sharp dialog. Naturally, the central foursome get all the best bits--and they shine in the roles, leaving the young whippersnappers in the dust. Dean and Vance have the most thankless roles; Cromwell is subliminally nasty in a role that never has a decent payoff; Sherbedgia is rolled out yet again as a dodgy Russkie (enough already!); fine actors like Brown, Devane, Babcock and Harden are barely in the film at all. As a director Eastwood tries to raise the stakes with some subtle shadings here and there, including a bravely un-Hollywood ending, but he should have jettisoned the storyline completely and come up with something with a shred of originality. What's left is vaguely entertaining in a criminally undemanding way.

[12--themes, innuendo, language] 14.Aug.00
US release 4.Aug.00; UK release 22.Sep.00

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space will never be the same"This is a movie I had been wanting to see ever since I saw the first trailers - all the actors are ones I like. I had to laugh at myself when I saw the audience that was also coming to see this movie - I would venture to say over 90% had gray or white hair! So you could say these actors are appealing to 'mature audiences' in more ways than one! It also might help to be old enough to remember exactly what the Cold War was about, and the attitude of the world at the time. The basic plot centers around a so-called communications satellite that the Russians have in outer space, put up during the Cold War era, which is losing its orbit and getting ready to crash to earth - usually no big deal, it happens all the time. But the Russians want the US to help keep it up, claiming all their communications networks would be lost if this satellite is allowed to crash and burn. Of course, the only ones who can fix this antiquated technology are now geriatrics who were not team players at the time. The Russian commander who keeps asking for it to get fixed is acting funny - something is rotten in Denmark.... I enjoyed this movie - and it is great to see older actors saving the day. The plot is interesting, and at first I did not like the ending - but after sleeping on it, decided it fit and was a good one. I liked this movie - and definitely don't want to give away the ending!" --Laurie T, Minneapolis.

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2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall