A few nights ago, I rewatched Clint Eastwood’s “Gran Torino.” I love this movie. It is rated “R,” principally for language. At times, it seems like every other word is either a racial slur, the f-bomb, or a crude swear word. Although it sounds almost obscene, I found myself laughing at some of the absurd and creative uses of racial epitaphs.
The plot of the movie involves an Archie-Bunker-type curmudgeon–Walt Kowalski played by Clint Eastwood–dealing with his neighbors, remanants of a hill tribe from Southeast Asia. Walt, a retired automobile worker who fought in the Korean War, has just lost his wife. He is alienated from his children and grandchildren. He is playing the end game. To make matter worse, he being “harassed” by the local priest who helped hospice his wife.
Walt finds himself the defender of the Hmong community, and particularly the boy next door (who lacks a father figure). The ending is predictable, but the viewer doesn’t care. The movie, which consists of numerous skits skillfully sewn together, is a gem. But I may have one issue with Clint and the writer.
There has been considerable criticism of “Avatar” for having the indigenous race (people of color, in this case green) on Pandora led in their resistance by a “white” alien. Why couldn’t they have been led by one of their own? The same criticism could be leveled at “Gran Torino.” Walt becomes the savior of his Hmong neighbors. He carries on the good fight and dies in the end (an almost messianic figure). More Hmong participation in denoument would have been nice. This criticism is somewhat muted by the fact that “Avatar” is about the Na’vi (the green people) and “Gran Torino” is Walt’s film. America is a pluralistic society, and coming to grips with this fact is not aways easy. (Think Pat Buchanan here.) Particularly when the various groups are competing for jobs, etc. Walt’s attitude toward Asians was initially formed in Korea. But it is in Detroit that he comes to grip with non-white America.
This is a movie for adults.
Recommendation: See it (rent it now), this is one of Eastwood’s best movies.