Gran Torino

Director: Clint Eastwood
Year Released: 2008
Rating: 3.5

Eastwood's coded 9/11 allegory is deeply personal and shockingly funny, taking the somewhat mediocre setup - about a grouchy Korean War veteran who becomes a mentor to a shy neighbor boy whose family is threatened by a street gang - and using it to make a bigger statement about aging (Clint is currently in his late 70's) and toughing the fuck up. The Hmong people that populate the neighborhood where this takes place (in rough-and-tumble Detroit) could very well be family-oriented, traditionally-strong individuals from the Middle East who just want to eat, walk around and be at peace while the "street gang" might as well be "terrorists," making American Hero Eastwood as a kind of defender of tradition (and, for a second time in his life, a willing sacrificial lamb): he recognizes a kind of strength and resilience in the Hmong that he doesn't find in his own milquetoast family, which has grown soft and weak because of the fighting and labor of his generation and the WWII generation (the privileged signifier of the picture, the title automobile, fittingly gets passed to the boy because he understands the price paid for freedom and the dignity of blue collar work). In interviews the wizened Libertarian has said that he worries about America's complacency and what he perceives as collective weakness, and this picture makes me think that Clint feels, in terms of religion, that making peace with one's past is of the utmost importance (his final act of self-destruction being a kind of ritualistic self-cleansing because of prior atrocities committed in Korea). Concluding the movie with the auteur grunting out the movie's theme song is wonderfully tongue-in-cheek.