Saw Clint Eastwood's new film Gran Torino last night. I can't understand, at all, the generally positive reviews this film has received. It's not just a misfire, it's a mess. It's cliche, largely acted with almost comic ineptitude, and it's message is mystifying.
My friend Matt, who saw it with me, noted, also, that if Eastwood's character said the n-word as often as he says gook in this movie, it would be considered impossible to release in major markets. Somehow, there are racial epithets we've come to find comic, and others we accurately think of as racial slurs. Gran Torino says that some kinds of racism (the kinds that are married to squinty charming grumpiness) are more acceptable than other kinds. Eastwood's old war veteran with a heart of gold is about as realistic as life as a prostitute in Pretty Woman.
It's also remarkably tone deaf compared to the better, more nuanced conversations about race that are taking place in the popular culture these days. It's portrayals of poverty, immigration, gang violence, prejudice...they're naive, simplistic, childish. If this is Dirty Harry updated, maybe the lesson here is that Dirty Harry belongs to the 1970s.
- Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.