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DVD Picks: Gran Torino

The durable Clint Eastwood transforms a stereotypical racist into afully realized character in what many people think should have beencalled Dirty Harry VI.

Gran Torino
Director: Clint Eastwood

The durable Clint Eastwood transforms a stereotypical racist into a fully realized character in what many people think should have been called Dirty Harry VI. It’s a thoughtful work that continues the actor/director’s late-career surge.

In truth, it's more in line with Unforgiven, the understated 1992 western that won Eastwood Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director. There’s a similar theme of reconciling past deeds and paying the toll that violence exacts, along with a shared economy of lensing and dialogue.

Eastwood seems to be channeling Archie Bunker in his depiction of Walt Kowalski, a widowed Korean War vet and retired Ford factory worker in suburban Detroit whose grim outlook on life has suddenly become a lot greyer. His family and neighbours won’t get out of his face and off his lawn.

Walt isn’t looking for redemption. He just wants to sit on his porch, smoke his cigarettes and drink can after can of beer. But he keeps getting dragged into neighbourhood drama when a gang of hoodlums starts bullying the youngest of his new next-door neighbors — and that’s where the Dirty Harry analogies really make sense.

The outcome of Gran Torino upends expectations, yet it makes perfect sense and turns the film into a parable for modern times. No tumbleweeds roll down Walt Kowalski’s street, but this is every inch a western set on concrete plains.

The extras are as lean as Eastwood, the highlights being featurettes that celebrate the Gran Torino car and Clint’s love of Detroit metal.

 
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