GROWLS AND ‘SWELLS’: AN ANALYSIS OF CLINT EASTWOOD (Part 7)

| December 24, 2015

EPISODE 7: GOODBY HARRY, IM CRYING OVER YOU

Hey, remember when I said this would be coming next week. Well it’s technically “a next week” according to the calender.

Now then… onto Clint.

Our hero had just been through the most iconic point in his career playing the San Francisco detective with no penchant or time for bullshit. It was a grand characterization and one that goes down as one of the most notable in film history.

Yet, after a film that shall later be discussed, Clint’s fortitude took him down the road of seeing consequences to actions. Whether that be bad father trying to do good or cowboy gone reformed, he started from 1992 onward to bring characters that show us the consequences of our fantasies.

In 2008, Clint released the culmination of that theme within his acting legacy. He released GRAN TORINO, and with that, said goodbye to the Callahan archetype in stunning fashion.

Let’s get this out of the way first:

GRAN TORINO

3.5 OUTTA 4 GROWLS AND SWELLS

GRAN TORINO tells the story of the racially insensitive and consistently grumpy Walt Kowalski, a Korean War veteran who deals with growing old amidst the death of his wife. His children are self obsessed, his local priest keeps insisting he go to confession, and his neighbors are Hmong which sends Walt up a wall culturally. After he scares off a local Hmong gang with the now infamous phrase, “Get off my lawn” as he raises a rifle to their faces, he begrudgingly begins to immerse himself in the Hmong culture and take on Tao as his ward. While teaching Tao how to become a man and less of a “sissy”, he realizes that him and his family will not have peace while the Hmong gang still terrorizes their family.

Now if you have not seen the film, please stop right here, because we are going to get into spoilers………

Ok, good.

Gran Torino as a film is almost perfect in its arcs and structure. The acting in the film is limited only by the noble attempts at it’s primarily newcomer cast. It’s amazing qualities lie in it’s ability to get you to grow with the character of Walt, regardless of how insensitive and cruel he can be.

It should be noted on that front, that it is a terrible idea to ever do a “Quote – A – Long ” screening of this film ever… EVER!

Walt’s journey cannot be helped if it is compared to Clint’s persona over the years. It is , in many ways, his tour de force as an actor. More importantly, it puts to bed Harry Callahan.

In the first Dirty Harry, we meet Harry as a man who is an equal opportunity “hater”. In respect to readers and to my own code I dare not mention the names he uses to express his hate, but Callahan uses very colorful language. Of course, Callahan really, above all else, hates everyone… EVERYONE.

Cut to Walt Kowalski. Walt directs his hate with an unhinged version of Callahan. He expresses contempt for anyone who does not leave him be. While his language is more crass and out right, the parallel’s are their to be seen.

What is striking in the attitude department is the way he messes with peoples heads in a Callahan type fashion. He will use his fingers in the shape of a gun before pulling out a real piece of work from the armory. His ability to be overconfident is without a doubt a nod to Callahan.

In a way though, it’s not how similar he is to Callahan, but how different he is. Th final scene shows Walt in front of the Hmong gangs house. They have their guns raised, having seen what Walt can brandish when he is throughly pissed off. As Walt swaggers in his confidence, he accepts his fate in such a way that is unlike Callahan and yet what Callahan would probably do to get the job done. He reaches for his lighter across his chest and the gang open fires. Witnesses see the shooting and it is revealed that Walt had no gun on his person. Killed in the line of fire to protect the innocent, with a neat charismatic magic trick.

It is a beautiful, almost touching homage a goodbye to his most noted archetype. The grizzled man with the Growls and the “Swells” at his breath could finally be put to rest only in this fashion.

———

On the next installment, we will discuss Clints journey into the tender side. Get your Kleenex ready.

About the Author:

Zach Eastman is the filmmaker responsible for films such as TWOMBLEY (Starz Film Festival 2012 Official Selection) and THE BOY WHO STARES. He is also the producer of Matty O Connor's film GUNS DRUGS AND SYNERGY, Adam Jewels award winning film THE ZONE, and Tony Grosz's TWO YEARS SINCE FRIDAY. He has been a frequent guest on REEL NERDS PODCAST and now is one of their contributors.
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