Do you long for the days when Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry growled, "Do you feel lucky, punk? Well, do ya?" Then you may get a tingly jolt watching the 70-something Clint stick a gun in the snoot of an Asian gang member in Gran Torino. On the other hand, you may just find yourself feeling really uncomfortable.
Clint plays Walt Kowalski, a wildly grumpy and racist widower who stubbornly clings to values picked up serving in the Korean War. His Detroit neighborhood, once the picture of Americana, is now a racial melting pot, and he spends his days drinking beer on the porch and muttering an endless stream of slurs at his Hmong neighbors. The neighbors' son Thao (Bee Vang) is coerced by the local Asian gang into stealing Walt's prized 1972 Gran Torino. Walt catches him, Thao works off his debt, and the two disparate cultures begin to achieve an uneasy understanding. Unfortunately, the Asian gang members aren't as keen to journey down the road of enlightenment, and after a disturbing act of violence, Walt is forced to go all Dirty Har... rather, Dirty Grampy on their ass.
As a director and actor, Clint Eastwood has spent his career exploring the roots of American violence. In Gran Torino he correctly labels racism as one of its roots—and while Clint's direction is as competent as ever, it's really uncomfortable to cheer for a character whose racism is so unrepentant, or a script that repeatedly uses the word "gook" for laughs. It's one thing to ignore the racist ramblings of your grandfather—he's family. But paying good money to see what amounts to a geriatric Dirty Harry fighting racism with even more racism is just a bit too much for me to wrap my head around.