Gran Torino (15)
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Time Out says
Tue Feb 17 2009When Eastwood’s follow-up to ‘Changeling’ was announced in May, he quickly refuted rumours that he was making, belatedly, another ‘Dirty Harry’ picture. If its trailer promises a vigilante movie, the comedy-drama on release is actually a rather wise, insightful exploration of family and friendship, violence and vengeance.
Admittedly, retired Detroit autoworker and Korean War veteran Walt Kowalski (Eastwood, in what, sadly, may be his last lead turn) initially comes across like a curmudgeonly elderly relative of Harry Callahan: unable to conceal his disdain for his folks, his late wife’s priest, and those now inhabiting his slightly run-down suburb, many of whom are Hmongs who left south-east Asia for the US due to the Vietnam War. One such is shy teen Thao (Bee Yang), whose reluctant initiation into a local gang involves stealing Walt’s beloved 1972 Gran Torino…
Cue, much conflict: Nick Schenk’s screenplay centres on the encounter between Walt – a politically incorrect old bigot scarred by war – and today’s multicultural society. But as the film proceeds, with Thao’s sassy sister Sue (Abney Her) arousing both Walt’s protective instincts and his hitherto neglected capacity for self-analysis, it becomes more complex and engaging and it’s often very funny (as in a barber-shop scene where traditional American ‘masculinity’is hilariously exposed as an absurd construct). Finally, there’s a very moving development that takes Walt way beyond Callahan’s ethos. Eastwood’s subtle performance is as charismatic and effective as ever, while the movie covers his abiding preoccupations – race, age, individualism in a conformist world – with wit and intelligence. And in insisting that friendship’s more important than blood ties (or religious faith), Clint quietly goes against the grain. Predictably superior fare.
Author: Geoff Andrew
Fri Feb 20 2009