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
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.