surely has amassed enough manliness credibility to last him the rest of his life, playing strong characters in a variety of movies. Having established himself in the industry, one wonders why he still feels the need to paint himself into there same roles. Perhaps he doesn't want to be compared to De Niro
with his late career Fockers
follies, but Eastwood in the end just comes across as an old man still trying to prove something everyone else felt he established long ago.
The result, of course, is Eastwood directed Gran Torino
. In it, Eastwood plays an old fashioned war vet who has just lost his wife. His kids are too busy for him, his daughters in law want to coddle him, and his grandkids blatantly ask if he will hurry up and die so they can have his car. In addition to being quite irascible, he is racist beyond the quaint "things were different when he grew up" sort of sensibility. And lo and behold, his neighborhood is quickly being overrun with immigrants from Vietnam
, much to Eastwood's chagrin.
Despite all this, Eastwood's no compromise attitude and strong moral compass do lead to him taking a stand for the immigrant daughters, as well as offering a tough love mentorship to a particularly listless teenage boy living next door (played well by Bee Vang
). Eastwood becomes close with his neighbors, and ends up intertwined in their struggles with area gangs.
The problem with the movie is that while the story is actually quite deep and entertaining, it is telegraphed so predictably it looses the punch. There are some very interesting themes going on underneath, but instead we get to hear Eastwood tell awkwardly rude racist jokes. Eastwood's character is deep, as he punts his son out of his house for suggesting he move into a retirement home, he also confesses that he has guilt over being an emotionally absent father. As he curses his sons choice to purchase foreign made cars, he also proudly informs his neighbors that his son is very successful in his sales job.
Another fascinating line of inquiry opens up after Eastwood rescues Sue Lor from a gang. Played by the effervescent Ahney Her
, she explains where her people come from, but also why they pick America to flee to. While Eastwood constantly reminds others of his military service, Sue shows that American involvement in foreign conflicts has far reaching consequences often otherwise unseen. It is too bad that this does not get explored deeper than one car ride, because it is probably the best statement the movie makes.
Instead, we get to see Eastwood attempt to make himself into a heroic modern day cowboy, and fail every step of the way. He loves to point his gun at people, and his gravel gets dangerously close to The Dark Knight
level of ridiculous. Cool, Clint, we know despite being old you are still tough, you don't need to cast yourself in these roles to prove it. His heroic martyrdom at the end of the film (with this excellent associated cliche
) is the icing on the cake. The way it happens is slightly unbelievable, but the real problem is that soon after, it gets spelled out in black and white, just in case anyone missed the true depth of Eastwood's cunning heroism.
This movie is not terrible. It is, however, not the interesting look at race relations it could be, nor is it the action romp it could be, nor is it the touching character study it could be. Instead, Eastwood seems to be attempting to create a legendary persona for himself to be forever etched in the minds of his fans. The resulting film shows sparks of greatness, but ultimately comes across as much longer than its 2 hour runtime. Not recommended.