Dave Karger
November 25, 2008 AT 10:15 PM EST

If you’re like me, when you saw the trailer for Clint Eastwood’s new drama Gran Torino, you groaned and thought, Ugh, this looks just like Dirty Harry but older. But I had a chance to see the film last week and I’m happy to report that has much more depth. Like Eastwood’s last acting-and-directing job, Million Dollar Baby, it goes to some very surprising places. I’ll leave the actual criticism to my much more qualified colleagues Lisa Schwarzbaum and Owen Gleiberman, but from an Academy perspective, though Gran Torino probably won’t end up a top-five Best Picture possibility (the competition is just too stiff), Eastwood’s performance seems to me like a good bet for a Best Actor nomination. At first, some viewers may be distracted by all his moaning and groaning (literally, he often moans and groans instead of actually speaking), but as the film goes on, a fantastic character arc emerges, and Eastwood gets to play gruff, then sensitive, and then heroic in the space of two hours. Though he’s got two Oscars for directing and two for producing, he’s never won in an acting category. Whether Eastwood can unseat top competitors like The Wrestler‘s Mickey Rourke or Milk‘s Sean Penn remains to be seen, but given that he has said he may not act anymore, a Best Actor nod seems like the best way for the Academy to acknowledge this very interesting film, and his storied acting career.

addCredit(“Anthony Michael Rivetti”)

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