Clint Eastwood, Bee Vang, Gran Torino

Warner Bros. Pictures

Review in a Hurry: Clint Eastwood does Archie Bunker by way of Dirty Harry in this supremely odd film about an elderly, racist crank who becomes a hero to his Hmong neighbors.

The Bigger Picture: Aging widower Walt Kowalski just wants some peace and quiet in his golden years; the only things he's got left that are of any value to him are his dog, his lawn and his cherry '72 Ford. Since Kowalski is played by director Eastwood, pity the fools who mess with any of those things, especially slouching teenager Thao, a neighbor of Kowalski's targeted for recruitment by a local gang.

Kowalski, who spits out racial epithets the way most people discuss the weather, would seem a strange mentor for a troubled Hmong youth, but this is, after all, an Eastwood film, and unmistakably so. Even leaving aside his defiantly wizened presence, there's simply no one else alive who could get funding and distribution for a project so deliberately provocative and cockeyed, well-intentioned though it might be.

This willfulness does have the benefit of keeping Gran Torino lively even when the slight plot doesn't move much; Eastwood's hero is incapable of unexpressed thought and wanders his neighborhood with a sense of entitlement that suggests he could do anything at any time. The supporting performances are a little uneven, but the characters come through in unexpected ways, especially a wet-behind-the-ears priest who's anything but naive.

Gran Torino isn't Eastwood's best film, but it could definitely go down as his weirdest. The freedom to say and do as he likes after half a century in Hollywood is all up there on the screen. Whether it's in service to a message or entertainment may come down to your reaction when Clint tells you to get off his lawn.

The 180—a Second Opinion: Is anyone out there ready to believe that when Eastwood shows up in high dudgeon wielding a vintage carbine and tells you to "Get off my lawn!" anyone would need to hear it twice? No? Then you're going to have to swallow some major dramatic falsehoods.

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