"Gran Torino" (9 January 2009)
Saw it this afternoon. Here's what I think:
First off, the climax is just as I expected -- Eastwood's character does finish things off with a macho display of violence. Yes, he pulls out a lighter rather than a gun, but the delivery is violent, and essentially alone, he meats out his (evidently evil) opponents' destruction. (What would have been unexpected is if Walt listened to his priest's advice, contacted the police, and *they* figured out a way to inhibit the gangs' predations; instead, we get a priest who comes to learn that Walt was right all along).
Also, I wish the film was more aware of an interesting equivalence it sets up: namely, that Walt and the evil gang-bangers share violent reactions to trespasses into their territory. But as Dorothy notes, the film is not interested in drawing connections between Walt and gang-bangers. They are set up so we have no empathy for them, so that we can hate them. (Those who want to war against druggies, will shape their fantasies in the same way.)
Also, Thau is not set up to take things over. He ends the good boy that really, at heart, nobody takes too seriously -- the fate Michael avoided in the Godfather by taking violence into his hands. Walt is to be taken seriously. And so too -- to some extent --the priest, who confronts things head-on himself.
Also, this is a grandparent's film. Right now I live in Toronto's annex -- a place populated by liberal 60-year-olds who are forever hoping they might take in as renters those who are quiet, deferent, respecters-of-elders types, and who are forever complaining about their insufficiently attendant children. In short, they seek out "orientals" for the same reason some older men seek out young women. Wish the film had the sass to point this out.
Also, didn't like how the movie portrayed Walt's kids. If in confession he admits to being haunted all his life for not attending to his kids, the film should have showed the kids being the way they were owing to a lack of something (i.e. attendance), rather than owing to them being "spoiled" (god I hate that word) by too much of something.
In sum, not a film that will encourage older people to come to respect the youngins these days. More a film for the Don Cherrys of the world (wear a shirt and tie, young man! sacrifice yourself for noble causes!).
All this said, I enjoyed the film. I cared for the people in the film. I liked seeing Clint interact with his neighbors -- a lot. I liked a lot of his relationship with the neighborhood girl (though she did overact at times, and I didn't like how her overt, urgent, hurried sassiness at a certain part of the film really seemed primarily about getting us to like her all so much that we'd want to hate those who attacked her as much as Walt does). And I liked Walt.
Finally, Dorothy, please consider getting into the fray like Steve is wont to do with his reviews. Don't just post and vanish. Stay awhile.