Saturday, June 04, 2011

Eastwood's Homage to Wayne: Gran Torino

I knew that eventually Gran Torino would show up on DirecTV. It did last night.

(Spoiler alert, folks).....

Eastwood is an interesting critter. He's a Renaissance man who composes and performs a good part of the music in his movies, besides acting in them and directing some. He's a tough bird--he's the stunt-man more often than not. His movies generally reflect the roughness of his persona rather than an artsy refinement.

In his last several movies, he's been exploring Bigger Ideas, too. Prize Fighter is a not-quite-noir film about exploitation v. reward (or, perhaps, the arc between doing something dangerous and its logical physical consequences set over against the rewards for doing it well) and Gran Torino is a virtual re-make of The Shootist, but with a far different ending.

Shootist is a 'redemption' movie. Bad guy decides to make up for his evils as he approaches his death, does so by taking out a bunch of even worse guys. Gets a shave and a haircut on the way to the grave, by the way.

Torino has the same general plot, but Eastwood is not a 'bad' guy. Instead, he's a good guy who's living in the '70's, except it's the '90's. He's very ill and he knows it. As in Shootist, the main character befriends a young fellow, helps that younger fellow with practical lessons, gets a shave and a haircut, and proceeds to take out a bunch of bad guys.

Since Eastwood's character is not a 'bad' guy--his last Confession reveals no horrific sins--his "redemption" twists the Wayne resolution; Eastwood arranges for the arrest, (and presumed life-imprisonment) of the real bad-guys; unlike Wayne, he doesn't make them assume room temperature.

Fr. Barron saw something else at the end: Eastwood's last pose, in death, is cruciform, as was Christ's. That fits perfectly into the denouement of the movie.

It's a movie which will be viewed sympathetically by almost any man over the age of 65 and which should be seen. Don't look for too much--but don't think of it as another spaghetti Western. It's a lot better than that.

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