Will This Clint Eastwood Movie Be Any Good? Vulture Does the Math


Clint Eastwood’s latest directorial effort, Hereafter, opens wide this week, and it’s getting surprisingly middling — some might even say vicious — reviews. But it all sounded so promising: Matt Damon! Tsunamis! Ghosts! A screenplay by The Queen’s Peter Morgan! But as we've learned through the years, it's a complicated math that governs the quality of Clint Eastwood—directed movies. How can you tell if one will be good or bad, a masterpiece or a disaster? As we've done previously for Judd Apatow movies, we've identified the important variables and devised a handy formula ...

If the movie ...
For example:

Scoring result:
Is a Western. Outlaw Josey Wales, Unforgiven, High Plains Drifter, Pale Rider. (Bronco Billy is a sorta-Western, so it gets half-credit.) +10 points.
Is a war movie. Outlaw Josie Wales (Civil War), Letters From Iwo Jima, Flags of Our Fathers (WWII), Heartbreak Ridge (Grenada). +10 points.
Is about jazz or features jazz in the title. Bird, Play Misty for Me. +10 points.
Stars Clint Eastwood ... Too many to list here — you know which ones they are. +5 points.
... as a grizzled veteran cop or Fed. Blood Work, A Perfect World, Sudden Impact, The Gauntlet, The Rookie. +5 points.
Is About an Artist/Musician/Filmmaker/Photographer. Bridges of Madison County, Bird, White Hunter Black Heart, Honkytonk Man. +10 points.
Features a still-alive character who others think is dead. Outlaw Josey Wales, Unforgiven, High Plains Drifter, Pale Rider, Space Cowboys, Sudden Impact, Bronco Billy, Changeling. . +3 points.
Is about a missing or kidnapped child. Mystic River, A Perfect World, Changeling. +5 points.
Co-stars Morgan Freeman. Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby, Invictus. +7 points.
Features Laura Linney or Diane Venora. Mystic River, Bird, Absolute Power, True Crime. +5 points.
Is in another language. Letters From Iwo Jima. +10 points.
Stars an actor who'd previously won an Oscar. Unforgiven, Bridges of Madison County, Mystic River, Absolute Power, A Perfect World, Blood Work, Million Dollar Baby, Space Cowboys, The Eiger Sanction, Changeling, Breezy, Invictus, Hereafter, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. +3 points.
Was written by an Oscar winner. Letters from Iwo Jima, High Plains Drifter, Mystic River, Absolute Power, Blood Work, Flags of Our Fathers. +5 points.
Is based on a novel or short story. Outlaw Josey Wales, Bridges of Madison County, Mystic River, Absolute Power, Blood Work, White Hunter Black Heart, Million Dollar Baby, Honkytonk Man, True Crime, The Eiger Sanction, Firefox. +4 points.
Has a German villain. The Eiger Sanction, The Rookie, Million Dollar Baby. -3 points.
Features a rape or an attempted one. Outlaw Josey Wales, High Plains Drifter, Mystic River, Absolute Power, Sudden Impact, The Gauntlet, Gran Torino, The Rookie. -3 points.
Is based on a true story. Letters from Iwo Jima, Bird, White Hunter Black Heart, Flags of Our fathers, Changeling, Invictus, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. -3 points.
Stars the offspring of a famous Hollywood actor (as long as it's not Laura Dern). Bird (Sam Robards), Blood Work (Anjelica Huston), Honkytonk Man (Kyle Eastwood), The Rookie (Charlie Sheen), Hereafter (Bryce Dallas Howard), Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (Allison Eastwood). -5 points.
Features a comedian in a major role. Hereafter (Jay Mohr), Blood Work (Paul Rodriguez), True Crime (Denis Leary). -7 points.

… And the results!

Masterpieces (20-plus points):
Outlaw Josey Wales (29)
Unforgiven (25)
Letters from Iwo Jima (22)
Bridges of Madison County (22)
High Plains Drifter (20)

Near-Masterpieces (17–20):
Mystic River (19)
Absolute Power (19)
A Perfect World (18)
Pale Rider (18)
Bird (17)

Good Films (13–16):
White Hunter Black Heart (16)
Million Dollar Baby (16)
Play Misty for Me (15)
Heartbreak Ridge (15)
Honkytonk Man (14)
Bronco Billy (13)

Okay Films (8–12):
Flags of Our Fathers (12)
Space Cowboys (11)
Blood Work (10)
Sudden Impact (10)
The Eiger Sanction (9)
Firefox (9)
Changeling (8)

Disappointments (1–7):
True Crime (7)
The Gauntlet (7)
Invictus (7)
Breezy (3)
Gran Torino (2)

Disasters (< 0):
The Rookie (-1)
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (-5)
Hereafter (-9)

Obviously, when a filmmaker has such a storied and long career, not everyone will agree on which movies are good or bad. But the numbers don't lie: For example, we’ve always really liked Eastwood’s underappreciated 1997 killer-President crime flick Absolute Power, and the math here shows it's a near-masterpiece. (Seriously, check it out, it’s good.) But Gran Torino, one of the director’s biggest box-office hits, is a disappointment according to our infallible calculations. (Which makes sense, 'cause it’s an effing ridiculous movie.)

So how does this bode for Eastwood’s upcoming J. Edgar Hoover biopic? The jury's still out: That screenwriter Dustin Lance Black already has an Oscar is a very good sign (+5). But the fact that it’s based on a true story could be cause for concern (-3). Leonardo DiCaprio has been cast, but let’s hope Eastwood finds a role for Morgan Freeman (+7?), too. If George Lopez or Dane Cook scores a role, be very, very worried.