Gran Torino

Like many characters Clint Eastwood has played in his six-decade screen career, recently widowed Korean War vet Walt Kowalski is a man outside of his own time hurled by circumstance into direct conflict with the present. That transition occurs when the racist Walt steps across the property line in his economically depressed Detroit suburb and into the lives of the Hmong immigrant family next door, including the introverted, teenage boy, Thao (Bee Vang), who, menaced by a local gang, has made an unsuccessful bid at stealing Walt’s car. But if Gran Torino seems at first glance to be a gently un-p.c., geriatric crowd-pleaser of the Space Cowboys variety, it soon becomes clear that Eastwood is merely using the bass line of a butt-kicking Clint Eastwood action movie to play a series of complex variations on his career-abiding themes. “The thing that haunts a man most is what he isn’t ordered to do,” Walt says, and the thing that has long haunted Eastwood is the legacy of American violence and the false heroic myths on which that legacy has been written. For him, romanticized movie violence long ago lost its allure, and at least since Unforgiven (a film that this one in many ways mirrors), the act of killing another human being has been depicted as one that leaves a permanent scar on men’s psyches. In Gran Torino, that strain of investigation reaches its apotheosis in an inversion of Unforgiven’s climactic barroom standoff, a scene that brings the curtain down on Eastwood’s cycle of urban-crime films as hauntingly as the earlier one did on his Westerns.
Wed., May 13, 2, 7 & 9:25 p.m.; Thu., May 14, 7 & 9:25 p.m., 2009

 
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