The Movie Club

The Problem With Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino
Critic vs. critic.
Jan. 7 2009 5:04 PM

The Movie Club

VIEW ALL ENTRIES

Chiming in quickly here to refine my earlier query about Clint Eastwood (not least because of the e-mails I've been getting from readers with vigilante justice in their eyes): When I asked whether anyone else found him overrated, I was referring to Eastwood the director, not Eastwood the actor. To carp about the latter would be like objecting to the cracks in the Liberty Bell. Stephanie's right: He owns every crease in that monument of a face, and his great strength as a performer, especially as he ages, has been to understand and inhabit that monumentality with an ironic intelligence that, in this year's Gran Torino, comes close to imploding the Eastwood myth from within.

Comes close … until Eastwood the director comes galumphing in with what I think even a lot of his fans agreed was a mawkishly heroic ending, which (I can state without spoiling either movie) shares a weird messianic logic with the finale of the award-winningly lousy  Seven Pounds. The Manichaean split between Eastwood's bad guys (that slavering child-murderer in The Changeling, warbling "Silent Night" under his execution hood) and his good guys/gals (Angelina Jolie, bruised and trembling in the snake-pit psycho ward) is just too stark for me to take seriously the moral plight of either. Isn't the righteous masochism of Gran Torino (or The Changeling or Million Dollar Baby) just an inversion of the righteous sadism of the Dirty Harry movies?

Advertisement

Carry on,
Dana

Jeannette Catsoulis writes about film for the New York Times, Reverse Shot, and Las Vegas CityLife. Lisa Schwarzbaum is a movie critic at Entertainment Weekly. Dana Stevens is Slate's movie critic. Jessica Winter is the film critic and senior editor at O, the Oprah MagazineStephanie Zacharek is a senior writer and film critic for Salon.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

It Is Very, Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

The U.S. Is So, So Far Behind Europe on Clean Energy

Even if You Don’t Like Batman, You Might Like Gotham

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Politics

Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

Nobody Knows How Many Gay Married Couples Live in America—Not Even the Census Bureau

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 22 2014 6:30 PM What Does It Mean to Be an American? Ted Cruz and Scott Brown think it’s about ideology. It’s really about culture.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 22 2014 5:38 PM Apple Won't Shut Down Beats Music After All (But Will Probably Rename It)
  Life
Outward
Sept. 22 2014 4:45 PM Why Can’t the Census Count Gay Couples Accurately?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 7:43 PM Emma Watson Threatened With Nude Photo Leak for Speaking Out About Women's Equality
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 22 2014 7:46 PM Azealia Banks’ New Single Is Her Best in Years
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 6:27 PM Should We All Be Learning How to Type in Virtual Reality?
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 22 2014 4:34 PM Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.