I saw Clint Eastwood’s new film, Gran Torino a couple of days ago. Despite his sometimes deep conservatism, some of Eastwood’s earlier films are exceptional, especially Unforgiven, which has a claim to the best western of all time, and Mystic River. It seems to me that in his later years (once he was past his terrible Dirty Harry movies and the appalling precursor to Fatal Attraction, Play Misty for Me) his films have been quite intelligent meditations of the law and violence. Gran Torino follows the same path (a grumpy old republican widower starts to defend his asian neighbours from a “gangsta” gang – just what is permissible when the law breaks down or is non-existent?). Again, the politics are pretty conservative (there isn’t much analysis of why there are gangs in the first place, the gang is treated as unremittingly bad etc), and his analysis of race relations treads a fine line (as an aside I believe Spike Lee and Eastwood recently fought a running battle about Eastwood’s exclusion of African Americans from his war films) but it’s on the level of filmmaking that the picture falls down. The script just isn’t good enough for Eastwood’s direction (usually so sure) to save the film from mediocrity. It’s not the worst film out there (I had the excruciating experience of watching the Sex and the City movie lately – but let’s not get started on that one…), but probably one for video.
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