Audiences figured "Gran Torino" marked a fitting end to Clint Eastwood's acting career. The film gave the Hollywood icon one last juicy role as well as the chance to show you still don't mess with Eastwood, no matter how old he may be.
"Trouble with the Curve" may be just as good of a swan song as "Gran Torino." Maybe better.
Eastwood acknowledges every minute of his 82 years in "Curve" without giving an inch. It's a performance from a man who refuses to punch the clock or use age as an excuse not to grow, and expand, one's talents.
"Curve" also contains some signature Eastwood schmaltz, the kind of eye-rolling, crowd pleasing morsels which confound critics but endear him to the masses.
Eastwood stars as Gus, an elderly baseball scout with a deteriorating eye condition and only three months left on his current contract. His type-A daughter Mickey (Amy Adams) sets aside her own career goals to spend a few days with Gus, making sure he's physically capable of completing a critical scouting assignment in North Carolina.
The pair meet Johnny (Justin Timberlake), a fellow scout and former major league prospect who instantly falls for Mickey. Who wouldn't? Adams is as beguiling as ever, and she knows more about baseball than the guy in your Fantasy Baseball league who loses sleep over each year's draft.
Poor Mickey would rather keep Johnny - and just about everything else - at arm's length. It's the fallout from her estranged relationship with Gus. Mickey's Mom died when she was just a little girl, leaving an unprepared Gus to hastily raise his only child.
"Trouble with the Curve" is a baseball movie unafraid of taking shortcuts with the national pastime. Purists will applaud the realistic sports sequence while cussing how the art of scouting is whittled down to a few inane talking points. The film is far more effective at evoking the culture of sub-minor league ball, from the fans who passionately follow local heroes with designs on the Big Show to people like Johnny who watched his own big league career evaporate with a bum shoulder.
The Gus/Mickey relationship is tender and bruised, and both Eastwood and Adams edge close enough to their character's issues without diminishing them with overwrought theatrics.
Fine supporting work by John Goodman, Matthew Lillard and Robert Patrick give the story extra heft, and kudos to young Joe Massingill for capturing the athleticism - and arrogance - of a can't-miss hitting prospect.
"Trouble with the Curve" isn't satisfied with the standard third act resolutions, so it adds a few to the mix that cheapen the real feelings generated by the leads. It hardly matters. When Eastwood is on screen, it's clear everything is going to be all right, even if it's for the very last time.
Follow Christian Toto on Twitter @TotoMovies