Gran Torino, Clint Eastwood (2008)

A mismatched-buddy picture ala Beverly Hills Cop, a crusty-mentor picture ala Finding Forrester, an urban revenge fantasy ala Taxi Driver, a man-damaged-by-war-learns-to-be-human-again picture like so many of the movies I’ve been watching lately, a can’t-we-all-just-get-along overcoming-racism-through-food picture I can’t think of another example of right now . . . In short, a lot of things, but no one thing in particular. Oh, I forgot the nagging priest making a case for Catholicism. An awkward and manic-depressive movie, now ebullient and now morose. Oh, I forgot how terrible the writing is. (Eastwood to mirror: “I have more in common with these gooks than with my own family.” As if the movie hadn’t already pounded us over the head with that information a hundred times in a hundred ways already.) Politically speaking, I can’t make heads or tails of it. For starters, Eastwood’s character is supposed to be this huge racist, but in one strange scene he makes pretty clear that all his slurs are just “how men talk to each other,” that the racism is just an act. OK, he might not be racist, but the movie sure is, even — especially — at the moments when it thinks its being most enlightened, as in the portrayal of the Hmong protagonists as helpless and naive. The only Hispanics and African Americans on offer in the picture are gangbangers. It’s like Eastwood threw all these ingredients into the pot and hoped they’d make a meal, but really it’s just an inedible mess.

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