Like Woody Allen, Clint Eastwood has reached the point where his movies are better when he's not in them. Changeling, his grim but fascinating period drama based on a series of child murders in the 20s, projected onto a traumatized mother the conservative anger at the justice system that runs all through his career. Coming down the pike two months later, Gran Torino offers little beyond a plausible scenario for the 78-year-old star to revive and mull over his classic hardass persona. He plays a bigoted old coot in a decaying Detroit neighborhood; bereaved by his wife's death and haunted by his brutality in the Korean war, he unexpectedly finds common cause with a pair of Hmong teenagers living next door. Eastwood is still a primal force on-screen, but his unusual practice of shooting scripts as written, which served him well on Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby, here leaves him exposed to Nick Schenk's familiar situations and awkward dialogue. R, 116 min.