For some reason I don’t pretend to understand, critics fawn endlessly over Clint Eastwood projects. From “Million Dollar Baby,” which I thought was offensive and a slap in the face to disabled people — to “Flags of Our Fathers,” which I found heavy-handed and preachy, and included my all-time least favorite racial stereotype (the Drunk Indian With A Conscience,) there seems to be a national conspiracy to overlook anything The Man With No Name does wrong and throw parties about anything he does right.
The party continues with “Gran Torino.” This is not a bad movie, but it’s not really a good movie either. It’s pretty formulaic, you can see the final plot twist coming a mile away, and its main pleasure is in watching Flinty Clint frown, glare, glower and growl at a bunch of punk kids. This is not a pleasure to be undersold; when it comes to glaring and growling, I don’t think there’s anyone better than Dirty Harry.
“Gran Torino” touches on racial tension in the inner city, but doesn’t really have anything to say about it other than “wow, those Hmong can really cook!” Eastwood is seriously old school, still living in the same Detroit neighborhood where he raised his family, who he’s driven away with unrealistic expectations and an awful lot of growling. The neighborhood’s now inhabited by Hmong, and possibly other Asian, folks, new immigrants to the Land of Opportunity. Clint goes through a manly meet-cute with a kid who lives next door, and decides, slowly, by degrees, and yet painfully predictably, to help the kid out, and make the kid’s problems his problems.
And then the problems get bigger, and we dive headlong into a There’s Really Only One Way Out conclusion. Which, if you didn’t see it coming, a)you probably enjoyed this movie more than I did, and b)shame on you for being so naive.