I finally saw Gran Torino last weekend, after refusing to see it in Chicago with my friends. I never had any idea what it was about.
Aside from the fake-sounding dialogue and the way-too-blunt Christ-figure scene, I enjoyed its message. I enjoyed Clint’s character, too. He is incredibly racist but good to his neighbors by accident. His kids encourage him to move to a “community” but he wants to stay in his crumbling neighborhood, which his kids call the ghetto. When there’s trouble at the Hmong house next door, he comes out with a gun and intimidates the gangsters away. He has the teenager next door work for him. He sits on his porch and watches the neighborhood, ready to interfere when something goes wrong. He puts the public eye back into neighborhoods and respect back into the youngsters. And all of it was either forced on him or by accident.
Maybe Clint wanted to achieve this inherent sense of community in Walt. People that age remember what it was like to be a part of a neighborhood. The baby boomers simply want to get as far away as possible from intense problems that community has to deal with. We call the police when neighbors are too loud instead of talking to them ourselves. We turn inward, live passive aggressively, and repress.
With the climax scene, it becomes apparent that the best way to put criminals in jail is to provide witnesses to their crimes. This involves actually being around. Sticking your head out the window when you hear raised voices.
Jane Jacobs would be so proud of Walt from Gran Torino. In even the broken neighborhood featured in this movie, the people who live in it salvage a livable life.