I may have given away too much already. So I'll stop with the plot specifics and say that I was mightily impressed by Gran Torino, and that I also understand the rather contradictory opinions that are already flooding the intertubes. After the screening, a critic friend who also dug the picture mentioned that it reminded him a bit of a Sam Fuller film. Yes. Eastwood is a more nuanced filmmaker than the late, great, Sam, but Gran Torino does have an old-fashioned bluntness and sincerity that runs counter to quite a few contemporary modes. In the early portion of the film, Eastwood's performance skirts caricature, and not narrowly, either—he literally growls to show displeasure. But from there, Eastwood the performer, Eastwood the director, and screenwriter Nick Schenk build. The overblown archetype is revealed as a singularly tortured individual. But Eastwood's plain approach—and it should be noted here that, trailer to the contrary, this is not an action film; it's largely made up of dialogue scenes, and what violence occurs is ugly and brutal and hardly...oops, I'm saying too much again—is so thoroughly out of fashion that it practically invites cynicism from certain parties.
What's also kind of striking about the picture is that it's actually about something real going on in America, a place that Hollywood movies barely pay any attention to these days. I'm talking about the film's relatively detailed look at Hmong immigration in the American midwest. (The newcomers who play Thao and Sue, Bee Vang and Ahney Her, are extremely sympathetic and unshowy, by the way.)
There's more I'd like to say about the picture, which is still rolling over in my head as I write this. I'll definitely want to address the "I didn't know Clint Eastwood could act" contingent as it emerges. (Short answer: he never couldn't, you dolt.) And I certainly want to mull it over with the Eastwood fans who come around here, once they see it.