I've had Clint's latest movie on my radar for awhile. We rarely see movies in the theater these days. But we catch a movie every other week or so on disk.
In the last two weeks, we started to use RedBox. First, we saw the brutal Paul Blart. (I told Tonia that the trailer would have the only funny parts in it-- and then I let her talk me into seeing that garbage!) Then, last night, looking for a quiet night on our return from Nolin Lake, we picked up Gran Torino.
I expected it to be good, but it easily exceeded my expectations. It has some violence, a few references to sex, and A LOT of cussing (but all appropriate for the characters in the film). It is one of a handful of provocative films on race-- in recent memory, Crash comes to mind. Eastwood does a lot with racial stereotypes and a little bit with gender stereotypes. Along the way, Eastwood uses a lot of humor and three-dimensional scenes to bring depth to a topic often reduced to two dimensions. I suspect that Eastwood's choice of Thao's name-- as a synonym of Tao-- is purposeful and meant to extend his elbow-room treatment of a complex topic. (It's probably a stretch to see C.S. Lewis' use of the Tao in The Abolition of Man here as well. But the connection of Eastwood's effort to "natural law" is certainly appropriate.)
UPDATE (this paragraph): There is a poignant and provocative moment where Eastwood verbalizes his realization that he has far more in common with the Hmong family than his own family.
Eastwood also does a nice job with the priest's character. The character comes off as a bit wooden, but then again, he is somewhat two-dimensional as the movie gets rolling. And ironically and thankfully, the priest is one of the characters who emerges "with balls and teeth".
If you haven't seen the movie, check it out soon, but stop reading here!
It's funny that one cannot even refer to "the end" without messing it up for people. (If you tell them that something happens at the end, they'll likely anticipate it and it will loses some of its power.) But the climactic scene is brilliant-- everything from the cigarette (the cigarettes really killed him and the reference to the last cigarette of a man about to be executed) to the lighter (and the derogatory reference to it by Thao) to the Christ-type and crucifixion pose of Eastwood's "sacrifice".