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clint-eastwood-gran-torinoThere has been much written about Clint Eastwood’s later career. Well into his 70s the man has become a seemingly unstoppable movie making machine, directing, producing and scoring eight movies in eight years. In this millennium he’s won two Oscars and starred in four films. To put his output in perspective with another actor of his age, Gene Hackman hasn’t made a movie in four years and recently announced his retirement. Clint’s latest, Gran Torino, his second film of the year, suggests that maybe he should take a break. All work and no play, it seems, has made Clint a dull boy.

The movie icon plays Walt Kowalski, a recently widowed Korean War vet who finds himself with little to do but sit on his front porch drinking beer and scowling at the neighbors. After forty years at Ford his job is gone, his friends are mostly dead and the ones who are still alive moved out away years ago, replaced by the Asian immigrants who now live on either side of him. He’s a piece of work. Racist, crotchety and blunt he’s unloved by all including his yuppie son. His life takes an unexpected left turn when he comes to the rescue of a young Asian boy (Bee Vang) who is being harassed by gang members.

After a slow start Gran Torino picks up some speed as Walter’s preconceptions of his neighbors begins to change, but unlike other grumpy old man movies Walter never entirely drops his racist bullying. It’s the opposite of politically correct and will likely offend many viewers, but as a director and actor Clint has the courage to stay true to his character. I just wish the character was a bit more interesting.

Eastwood brings touches of several past characters to Walter. He’s part Insp. ‘Dirty’ Harry Callahan, part Frankie Million Dollar Baby Dunn and part Philo Any Which Way You Can Beddoe. In other words he’s tough but tender with a goofy edge that seems at odds with Walter’s hard external shell. The camera loves Eastwood, and even though he’s hammier than a MacDonald’s Pork & Cheese Toastie, he brings some life to a character that we’ve all seen before.

Gran Torino is an uneven film that slowly builds toward a predictable and not very convincing climax. Eastwood anchors the movie with a greatest hits kind of performance that lacks the subtlety of his recent work but will likely please long time Clint fans who’ll be happy to see him back in full-on scowl mode.

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