17 January 2009

At the movies: Gran Torino.

Clint Eastwood is back in what could unironically be called Angry Grandpa: The Movie. His Walt Kowalski, a recent widower with unappreciative offspring, Korean War trauma, and habits of confusing racist invective for terms of endearment and growling at things which displease him, is a bizarre fusion of Dirty Harry, Archie Bunker, and Eastwood's Heartbreak Ridge character Sgt. Highway.

Originally rumored to be a new Dirty Harry movie, Gran Torino has surfaced with a great deal of acclaim for Eastwood and a good deal of slackjawed disbelief at the film's script, which serves as an interactive history of American racism (including slurs you haven't heard since the last James Ellroy novel) and which peppers its 'men coming-of-age' narrative with gang violence and glimpses into the Asian immigrant experience.

In what he says may be his final performance as an actor, Eastwood is staggeringly good. The script is pretty terrible, and I worry what the result would have been if someone without Eastwood's charisma and cinematic history had tried to bring Walt to life and then gradually be won over by his Hmong neighbors. Gran Torino, for all its faults, is a distinctive mess, and it's like nothing else out there.

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