Old grizzled Clint Eastwood plays Shirty Harry in a film about redemption, ageing, learning to live with others, sacrifice but most of all about the myth of Clint himself.
The skimpy plot concerns a grumpy Korean war veteran whose neighbourhood has gone to the dogs, evidence of which he sees in his immigrant neighbours, who are Hmong people. A view reinforced when the young son tries to steal his 1972 Gran Torino and underlined later on when he sets about “teaching the youngster a lesson”, which of course teaches him a few things he didn’t know.
Like Unforgiven the tensions comes from the question “when is Clint going to strap the guns back on”? But being a film about an old man the outcome is less certain than it was in the 1992 western.
You could describe the Dirty Harry films as the driest of dry comedies – “make my day” and all that – and Gran Torino certainly knows it’s in the comedy arena, has to be if a film about a 70-something dude putting the fear of god into local tearaway mobsters is going to be believed.
Basically, it’s great to watch old Clint reheating some of young Clint’s moves and raising a quizzical eyebrow towards the audience – a “some shred of life in the old fuck, hey?” look on his face. And one suspects that all this stuff has been added by Clint’s production team, or at its behest, to the original story by Dave Johannson. Certainly the sequence leading up to the big showdown – Clint has a bubble bath, smoking a cigarette in the bath, then heads off for a haircut and a straight razor shave, all very Fistful.
What’s noticeable about the film is how much fun this stuff is but how clanking the film is otherwise – dialogue, acting, the seeming necessity to insert gallons of exposition where little is necessary. None of the relationships feels that believable either.
It survives, really, on Clint and the myth of Clint. Even the 1972 Gran Torino after which the film is named, is clearly the sort of car Harry Callahan would have driven.
© Steve Morrissey 2009