I saw this movie twice, not because I was so impressed the first time, but because a friend wanted to see it and I wanted to spend time with him.
The first time through I found it a compelling story. I was engaged, but bothered by a few things. Eastwood's character seemed caricature. His grunt/growl thing was silly and got sillier. The Asian actors seemed stilted, with the exception of Ahney Her (as Sue Lor), especially the Mung gang members. These distraction culminated when Clint Eastwood began singing the title song over the credits. This was anticlimactic and gave me flashbacks to Paint Your Wagon and made me feel very old. His voice is nothing like fine wine.
Another viewing gave me a chance to see beyond the annoyances to see some delightful points. The first time through I felt horribly guilty about laughing at the epithets. It certainly was far from politically correct to enjoy this movie. But of course that was the point. Burdening ourselves with stepping on eggshells binds from a deeper insight into the human condition. We spend so much time trying not to offend some of our companions that they never become friends. And once we know we are friends we can live without fear of offense. It's a fine line, but an issue that needs to be examined. I believe that Eastwood's intent was to make that point.
This film offered the intimate view of gang violence without the recent trend of trying to make the viewer feel that he has been personally brutalized. By avoiding a heavy handed approach it allowed an authentic empathetic attachment to develop with Walt, Sue and Tao as well as the mother, who never spoke a word of English. Gang encounters took place on a neighbor corner the was made more frightening by its normality.
The ending was all the powerful for not being milked in Spielbergesque fashion.
Now just drop the song.