"Well, I think you’re an overeducated, 27 year old virgin who likes to hold the hand of old ladies who are superstitious, and promises them eternity."
- Walt (Clint Eastwood) to young priest
Sue (Ahney Her): We’re having a barbecue, you wanna come over?
Walt: What do you think?
Sue: There’s tons of food!
Walt: Yeah, just keep your hands off my dog.
"Oh, no. No, no more. No more, c’mon, no more…I…no more, please, no more, this that chicken dumpling thing you brought the other…alright."
- Walt to women bearing food gifts
Walt: See, now go out, come back and talk to him, and, it ain’t rocket science, for Chrissake.
Thao (Bee Vang): Yeah, but, I don’t have a job, a car, or a girlfriend.
Barber (John Carroll Lynch) Jesus. I should have blown his head off when I had the chance.
Walt: Yeah. Maybe so. Now okay, I want you to turn around, and go outside, and come back, and don’t talk about having no job, no car, no girlfriend, no future, no dick, okay? Just…turn around and go.
Priest (Christopher Carley): What can I do for you, Mr. Kowalski?
Walt: I’m here for a confession.
Priest: Oh, Lord Jesus, what have you done?
Walt: Nothin’, you just take it easy now.
Priest: What are you up to?
Walt: Are you gonna give me a confession or not?
At a glance:
Clint Eastwood directs and stars in this small but effective drama about a bitter and prejudiced Korean War veteran and widower who forms a reluctant friendship with his Asian neighbors
Our review (with spoilers):
Walt (Clint Eastwood) is a bitter old man. He just lost his wife. We never get to meet her, but I would assume that she was his lifeline into the social world, a gentler soul who softened Walt’s prejudice and anger toward the world, and the one person who was able to love him, despite his faults. Without her, he is happy to be isolated, making himself unapproachable to his family and to the young parish priest who made a promise to his wife to look after him. Walt remains on, alone in a small house, in a neighborhood that has become a ghetto. Surrounded by Asian families, Walt either ignores them or actively keeps them at bay with aggressiveness. When Thao, the young Asian boy next door, is almost kidnapped by a local gang, Walt steps in, brandishing one of his Korean War rifles. Walt only intervenes because the battle spills over the property line onto his lawn. Walt scares the gang away with his crazy bloody-mindedness, and, with this act, becomes an unexpected and reluctant hero to the boy, his family, and the other Asian families in the neighborhood. Slowly, Walt and Thao develop a father/son type relationship, with Walt teaching Thao about life (in his own unique way), lending him tools, and finding him a job. When Thao continues to be bullied by the gang, Walt starts taking things into his own hands and intervenes in a kind of geriatric Dirty Harry style, but this just escalates the violence.
This often quiet, sometimes humorous, and occasionally explosive film features one of the most vibrant, sincere performances Eastwood has delivered in years. Make no mistake: this is a film parable; it has no aspirations to be a true story (at least, that’s not how I read it). Eastwood’s transformation from hateful bigot to tolerant, respectful neighbor happens way too fast. Walt’s resolution ties things up too easily, especially after a point had been made earlier in the film that the Hmong people ‘knew how to keep their mouths shut’). Still, by tackling a much smaller story, Eastwood has succeeded where he sometimes fails. It’s a dream role for Eastwood; he gets to cuss it up and be the quintessential liberated bigot, then transform into almost a god-like martyr. But I reckon he deserves it.
Other reviewers said:
"The kind of movie Don Siegel and Sam Fuller used to make, a blunt but perceptive slice of American discontent filtered through the prism of B-movie conventions."
- Maitland McDonagh (Miss FlickChick)
"What the film aches for is a challenge worthy of the monster Eastwood effortlessly inhabits."
- James Christopher (Times [UK])