Gran Torino

Movies Reviews Clint Eastwood
Gran Torino

Release Date: Dec. 12 (limited), Jan. 9
Director: Clint Eastwood
Writer: Nick Schenk (screenplay), Dave Johannson 7 Nick Schenk (story)
?Cinematographer: Tom Stern?
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Ahney Her, Bee Vang
Studio/Run Time: Warner Bros., 116 mins.

Since 2003 Director Clint Eastwood has had a late-career renaissance comparable perhaps only to Phillip Roth’s in literature.Both are recently concerned with how America has delivered—and failed to deliver—on the promise of equality and the American Dream, as well as issues of race and dealing with their own respective deaths.With Gran Torino,Eastwood puts out a brilliant work that balances all of these issues beautifully without coming to terms with any of them or giving easy answers.

Eastwood himself plays Walt Kowalski, a racist, misogynistic, homophobic, alcoholic old man bitter at the world following his wife’s death.He doesn’t understand his family, he hates the Hmong neighbors who’ve taken over his area of town and just wants to be left alone to drink away his memories.Walt’s saving grace is that he’s a person who cannot see someone in trouble without doing something about it, which embroils him in the small-time gang conflicts affecting his neighbors.He ends up mentoring his neighbor Tao (Bee Vang) and gives the young man a new level of self-respect.

Aside from the anxiety between Walt and the Hmongs, there are also Hispanics and black members of his community he struggles to maintain peace with.There’s more racial tension in Gran Torino thanin anything this side of Crash (2005), but without any of the normal preachiness that usually gets shoehorned into studio pictures.Both Eastwood’s acting and directing seem honestly unsure of the situation.This isn’t to say that the directing is uncertain—it may be his most beautiful picture since Unforgiven and has a level of polish where every shot and frame feels intentional.This makes the difficulties of its screenplay more poignant, since it’s clearly not a muddle but a purposefully tangled web. Gran Torino is a mature work, self-assured enough to let its audience make sense of the situation.

The film’s ending points to Eastwood’s difficulties with his own past roles, as Dirty Harry goes out in a pacifist blaze of glory that’s as exultant as it is disheartening. It points back to the issue of age, and as Eastwood looks increasingly towards the past, it is a fitting retirement for an actor whose presence has been an important part of film for the past 50 years.Given that he’s only getting better as a director, let’s just hope he doesn’t plan on retiring from the other side of the camera any time soon.

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