The first time I saw the trailer for this film in a theater, the audience laughed. It portrayed a senile, furrow-browed Clint Eastwood brandishing a gun and barking at Asian people to "get off my lawn." Was this Dirty Harry: The Retirement Years? Thankfully, no. As it turns out, Gran Torino is surprisingly earnesta film that is funny and angry and sad for all the right reasons, and remarkably well timed. As 2008 comes to closeand with it many thingsGran Torino captures the zeitgeist as eloquently as anything possibly could.
The title of this film, directed and starring Clint Eastwood, refers to a '70s-era American muscle car, and the story is set in Detroit, at a time when the shrinking, suffering American auto industrycoupled with rising crime and changing demographicshas left everything slightly run-down and depressed. Walt Kowalski (Eastwood), a Korean war vet who worked 50 years for Fordlives in a Detroit neighborhood full of front-porch, paint-peeled, post-war houses now inhabited by immigrants and aging widowers. The place is rife with the ghosts of a simpler, booming timewhen Ford's assembly line was a symbol of the efficient homogeneity of life after the wars, when white picket fences and neighborhood barbers infused everything with a decidedly homegrown, rust-belt patriotism.
But in 2008, things have changed. Detroit is on its knees, praying for a few extra years. American auto manufacturing, like Walt Kowalski, is experiencing its cantankerous twilight, shaking its head as new paradigms set up shop and kick the old school callously to the curb. Kowalski represents the vestiges of a bygone era, but he will not go quietly into the night.
The film opens with the funeral of ...