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Posts Tagged ‘Clint Eastwood’


While I was a temporary bachelor, I spent an evening watching The Last Man Standing. I had only seen parts of the movie in the past, so I decided to watch the whole thing. It is an updated version of A Fistful of Dollars, which was the basic story line of Kurosawa’s Yojimbo that takes place during prohibition on a Texas border town. The basic story is that of the unknown drifter who enters the town in the midst of a struggle for power between 2 gangs (of different ethnic groups in the Leone and Hill versions). What the drifter notices is the beautiful woman who “belongs” to one of the gang leaders.

It has been some time since I’ve seen A Fistful of Dollars, so perhaps The Last Man Standing starts off differently. Or I didn’t have the eyes to notice how important the beginning was. LMS begins with the thus far unknown woman in the deserted chapel. She is praying. We learn later, of course, that she is essentially a hostage. The leader of the Irish gang won her in a poker game. She longs to be reunited with her husband and child (here a little girl). In AFD, we actually see the grieving husband and their grieving son. Here they have vanished in the depths of Mexico. We are led to believe that she is praying for her freedom.

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We finally watched the latest movie by Clint Eastwood, Gran Torino.  He plays a crotchedy, bigoted, foul-mouthed widower who ends up learning to care about people- in his own way.

The movie opens with his wife’s funeral and we are introduced to this distant family.  They are distant because he is essentially toxic.  They know little to nothing about him, only that his is abrasive.  We don’t see very much of them except as they try to relieve their guilt over neglecting him, or try to use him to get something they want.

Walt Kowalski is pursued by a young priest who made a promise to his wife.  But he essentially rejects his family’s faith.  It does not seem to address the needs of his heart, which are more than he’s ready to admit.  The young priest makes no headway.

Walt’s neighborhood has changed, considerably.  And he’s uncomfortable with all the strange-speaking immigrants on his street.  Until one night when he stops the local gang from abusing his neighbor.  He soon becomes the unofficial protector of the neighborhood.  He slowly allows his neighbors into his life.

The neighbor feels out of sorts too.  He has no father-figure, and has turned away from his family’s faith as irrelevant to life in America.  He is being pressured by the gang, led by his cousin, to join, and the initiation is to steal Walt’s mint Gran Torino.

Wally sees the young man only as a thief, who works for him as a type of penance.  Soon, his perception changes and he begins to guide and direct the young man in his own akward way.  And this brings him into repeated conflict with the gang.

The middle of the movie moved a bit slowly as the relationship between the main characters developed.  The priest nearly disappears.  He finally confesses the misdeeds that have haunted him all his adult life, to the young neighbor.  Finally able to love, he lays down his life for his friends.

This is a movie about violence that does not glorify violence.  We see how violence has disfigured his soul and mutilated his relationships.  He wants none of this for his neighbor, seeking to save him in the only way that seems to make sense to him: sacrifice.

It is a movie with a message- perhaps Eastwood’s own repentance- but the telling is not easy.  Walt’s rants are not PC and loaded with profanity.  But we also see that people can change, they are not cast in cement.  Eastwood uses a variety of metaphors to communicate what is going on internally.  And a tough of humor.  Sadly, sometimes it is those just like us that pose the greatest danger to us.  Race is insufficient to overcome selfishness and greed.  It takes something alittle more- love.

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