Cops again. Clint again. The pits again.

In "The Rookie," Eastwood's new buddy movie about a couple of cops in the auto theft division, Clint teams up with Charlie Sheen, and he couldn't be more naked in his attempts to connect with a younger generation of moviegoers if he laced up a pair of Reebok Pumps.

It doesn't matter. With "The Rookie," Eastwood joins Burt Reynolds in the over-the-hill gang; in fact, he might do well to see if there are any more coaching jobs open on TV. It takes a kind of audacity to do the same thing over and over again. Or maybe it's simple shamelessness. As Pulovski, a sergeant in the Grand Theft Auto division, Eastwood runs his patented American macho numbers, plays the same limited repertoire of squints, but he's gotten way too long in the tooth to pull them off and the thrill is long gone.

There's no point going into the character; by now, it's as indelible as a tattoo. His partner, Ackerman, played by Sheen, is a wet-behind-the-ears rookie with wealthy parents who are anything but approving of his career choices. Naturally, Pulovski thinks he's soft and puts him to the test, taking him to a biker bar, where the kid has the stuffing kicked out of him. Pulling him from the fray, Pulovski quips, "I didn't know you were into group sex."

Now that's screenwriting.

In fact, there's a lot of inspired writing in "The Rookie." There's even a scene in which Sheen's rich father screams, "I gave you everything you ever wanted!" To which he yells back, "You were never there for me!" Right out of Arthur Miller, isn't it?

And aren't we getting near the bottom of the buddy-movie barrel when we start using the car theft division? What's next -- macho traffic cops? The crux of the problem for the kid is that he thinks he killed his brother as a child by encouraging him to jump over an alley between two buildings that was too wide for him. But Eastwood, who directed this simpleton's exercise, uses the event as if it were the only thing that ever happened to the guy in his whole life; it's his whole psychology. And in the movie's terms it's just a device. When Ackerman decides to get over it, he's over it. A drip no more, he gets mad and proceeds to get tough, setting off to rescue his partner, who's being held for ransom by a pair of car-thieving desperadoes, played by Raul Julia and Sonia Braga. Julia seems at least to be having a little fun with his character, whom he plays with a wildly improbable German accent. Unfurling it, he's a ham, relishing his own showboating bravura. And who can begrudge him? At least there's one actor in the movie.

The Rookie, at area theaters, is rated R and contains violence, profanity and adult sexuality.