There’s a stack of themes in this Clint Eastwood film. The most gripping pulls together vengeance and justice.
Many cultures have blood feuds running through their histories, sadly, right through to present day. Imagine a man gets drunk and kills someone. The victim’s brother kills the original perpetrator and is then in turn killed by the drunk man’s son and so it continues, and escalates. In the Godfather Trilogy both Vito and Michael begin with righteous intent but end up trapping both themselves and their families in an endless tragedy of death.
Gran Torino sets the scene for an innocent family to be trapped in such a scenario. For me this is where the famous one liners of Jesus…’turn the other cheek’ and ‘go the extra mile’…have their true meaning. They are not about being a doormat or being nice and kind. They are about putting an end to injustice through offensive sacrifice. What do I mean?
A slave would be beaten with the back of their master’s hand. If he then turned his cheek his master would need to use the palm of his hand if he wanted to strike the slave again. To hit someone with the palm of your hand in Palestine 2000 years ago would be to consider someone your equal. Thus the cycle of injustice would be broken.
Also at that time, the occupying Roman soldiers could force a civilian to carry their pack for one mile. If the carrier continued to carry the pack after this the soldier would be breaking the law and get in serious trouble. Hence, the civilian could resist the occupation without physically fighting back.
Life is full of these situations where the natural reaction is either to roll over and give up or to get revenge. Jesus advocates neither. Use your brain and heart and fight injustice with a sacrifice so daring that it destroys the cycle of evil. Gran Torino poses once such situation. A very interesting ending.
Clint early on in the film (don’t watch if bad language offends you)