2009 – Currently showing in UK cinemas
Director: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Christopher Carley, Bee Vang
Racist, Non-PC, A Little Stereotypical….But Absolutely Brilliant.
‘Walt’s wife has just died, he is distant from his children, and his local area is filled with Koreans; the kind of people who he killed back in Vietnam. ‘Walt’ is a disgruntled, cynical old man who just wants to be left alone. Until his neighbours insist he goes over for some food, he realises he is not that dissimilar from these people whom he claims to hate.
This is quite possibly one of those films that has been hyped nearly to death, every piece of marketing you see raves about how great, amazing and superb it is. Often times the hype is the direct opposite of the film, and in this instance, the trailers didn’t help either.
However, surprisingly; this does live up to the hype and I instantly highly recommend it.
In a world where political correctness is starting to take over, it’s nice to see something break the rules with total disregard for them, and better still – It’s mainstream. ‘Walt’ initially starts of as a stereotype, but he has various nuances which slowly come across through the progression of the film. The most common phrase I’ve heard to describe Eastwood’s performance in this, is that “Dirty Harry is Back.” This is an unfair statement, judging on the numerous times I heard these quotes, I figured it might have been more beneficial to base the film around the character of a retired ‘Dirty Harry’, but Eastwood’s character is pretty unique. While he does display various habits similar to ‘Dirty Harry’, you could also equally compare him to the characters he played in the old westerns. Additionally, you could apply the same logic to plenty of actors. I feel Eastwood has been singled out in this sense due to his most prominent role.
Eastwood’s performance in this is superb, and he proves that he has still got it…Or should I say, never lost it. He establishes an early connection with the audience by coming across as so cold and heartless, that you can pretty much see through this and it’s easy to understand him.
‘Walt’ is such a non-pc character; he brings about great comedy in this film. Some of the humour has the possibility of making you cry whilst laughing. He pretty much refers to all Hmong locals by racist slang terms, such as “gook” and calling a character ‘Youa’ “Yum-Yum” because he doesn’t have the patience to remember her name.
Unfortunately, some of the younger supporting cast were not as good. While most of the expressions and physical mannerisms were convincing and believable, there were some faults within certain line delivery, this didn’t necessarily detract from the driving force behind the film, but it definitely threw you back at certain times.
Bee Vang (‘Thao’) is a good example of this, but despite it, his chemistry with Eastwood is very natural throughout the film. They work incredibly well together. Chances are that Vang may have been a bit daunted by working so closely with Eastwood. This is also Vang’s first credited acting role, and it is a major supporting role, in a mainstream film; directed, acting and starring a film industry legend. So Vang, as well as some of the other young cast members, all deserve a massive round of applause for their efforts.
Christopher Carley is without a doubt worth mentioning too. Playing a priest, he gives some added depth and rhetorical questioning to an already strong script.
When thought about, this is actually an ‘Urban Youth’ movie, but nothing like the kind that filled the 90s and the early 00s. This in fact initially preyed on the stereotype of such films, in a way which subtly parodied it. This is another of our politically incorrect ties to this film, due to the style in which the ‘gangland’ figures are portrayed.
There are several stereotypes written in here, but they are not for ease of story or anything, they are cleverly inserted either because they work with the plotline, or because they have a specific satirical objective.
The various comedy across the film also has a different effect, due to the nature of the humour carried through the film, it makes the serious scenes seem much more impacting. These moments change the mood of the film in a complete instant.
However, it is easy to see why some people might not be convinced by the story. This is not to say that it is contrived, but that some viewers might see this as ‘nothing special’, and perhaps misunderstand elements across it that separate it from all the ‘Urban Youth’ movies, as well as the various other films involving Vietnam veterans.
Some may also find the pace to be less than satisfactory. Personally, I think the pace is perfect, any drawn out moments or shots were vital to character portrayal.
There are also people who simply don’t condone political incorrectness, and will view this film frankly as unjustified racism. Although, this racism is essential to the characters; given the surroundings of ‘Walt’, it is an essential aspect to the plots development, also giving great strength to the ambivalent key component of the age and culture gap. This is indubitably something worth keeping an eye on as a theme in the film.
Another element that isn’t so good is the use of army drums, whenever ‘Walt’ is committing an act that involves the use of his army technique. This was somewhat unnecessary, and didn’t seem to fit in that well with the film.
Overall this is quite a touching film, and distinctly different to any of the films in which it will most likely be compared to. The script is fantastic, and the story flows fantastically. It is more likely to make certain people cry, than films designed to make people cry. That is for sure.
This is 9 out of 10, and will possibly thwart any inaccurate pre-conceptions developed.