“Go ahead, tough guy, make my day and take a ride on Gran Torino.”
GRAN TORINO (Clint Eastwood). 116 minutes. Opens Friday (December 19). For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NN
There's little chance Gran Torino will make your day, unless you have the deepest, blindest affection for Clint Eastwood's iconic laconic tough-guy screen persona.
Eastwood's Walt Kowalski, a belligerent, bigoted Korean war vet with a tender side beneath the gristle, is nothing more than a growling, gun-toting caricature of Harry Callahan, Josey Wales and William Munny.
And Gran Torino, in which the cranky-as-fuck S.O.B. becomes a reluctant hero to his "gook" neighbours after defending them from Asian gangbangers, is like Heartbreak Ridge: The Retirement Years.
Eastwood, who also directs, obviously intends this as a eulogy for a simpler, more black-and-white (and red-white-and-blue) way of life. Kowalski's a dinosaur, increasingly aware that he's outlived his usefulness, his attitudes out of step with the world beyond his immaculate front lawn. But the point is delivered with all the subtlety of a slug from a .44 Magnum.
In the end, Kowalski, still haunted by the horrors of war, finds some measure of inner peace before saddling up for one last ride. He's gonna settle scores the old-fashioned way. But Eastwood deprives us of the one base satisfaction every Dirty Harry and Death Wish movie delivers.
Here, he's firing blanks, literally and figuratively.
Oscar loves Clint Eastwood, so a best actor nod seems a shoe-in. Let's hope that his own croaky rendition of his song about a favourite car doesn't get taken seriously - it's a train wreck.