You can take Clint Eastwood out of the “Dirty Harry” movies, but you can’t take Dirty Harry out of ol’ Clint. So it would seem upon viewing “Gran Torino,” an Eastwood-directed film in which the 79-year-old plays a tough retiree who goes vigilante to take on gangbangers terrorizing his neighborhood.
Back in the day, Eastwood’s rogue cop, “Dirty” Harry Callahan, was a snarling avenger who would stare down the barrel of his massive Magnum .44 and contemptuously dare some low-life to “go ahead, make my day.” Audiences loved it not just because Clint had perfected steely menace, but because people were tired of all the crime and craziness of the inner city and the supposed liberal mollycoddling that let the muggers and junkies run wild. It was no coincidence that in many of these films the lowlifes were minorities. (Harry himself, was a guy who equated “the minority community” with “hoods.”) Like it or not, the films tapped into a very white sense of insecurity.