The box-office success of “American Sniper” continued in its second weekend of wide distribution, with $64.4 million in ticket sales. That’s on top of the estimated $107.2 million the Clint Eastwood film took in the previous weekend.

The movie, based on Navy SEAL Chris Kyle’s life and four combat deployments to Iraq, is a massive commercial success. But the reaction to it — already inflamed — has become even more polarized, as celebrities, pundits and veterans all continue to weigh in (and sometimes respond to each other).

The latest flap erupted following comments by former governor Howard Dean (D-Vt.) on Friday night. They came on “Real Time With Bill Maher,” after the show’s host ripped the movie for its moral ambiguity and Kyle for writing previously that he didn’t care about Iraq and hated the “savages” there.

” ‘Hurt Locker’ made $17 million because it was a little ambiguous and thoughtful,” Maher said, citing the opening weekend sales of another Iraq War filmed released in 2008. “And this one is just ‘American hero. He’s a psychopath patriot, and we love him.’ ”

Dean said Maher had made a “very interesting point.”

“There’s a lot of anger in this country, and the people who go see this movie are people who are very angry,” Dean said. “And this guy basically says, ‘I’m going to fight on your side.’ … I bet you if you looked at a cross section of the Tea Party and the people who go to see this movie, there’s a lot of intersection.”

That prompted a reaction Monday from actor and veterans advocate Gary Sinise that has gone viral. He noted that he has seen the movie, and does not consider himself to be an angry person.

“You certainly have a right to make stupid blanket statements, suggesting that all people who see this film are angry, but how is that helpful sir?” Sinise wrote, on the celebrity Web site WhoSay. “Do you also suggest that everyone at Warner Brothers is angry because they released the film? That Clint Eastwood, Jason Hall, Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller and the rest of the cast and crew are angry because they made the film? Chris Kyle’s story deserved to be told.”

Sinise continued that the movie shows how the stress of multiple deployments affected Kyle’s family, which is “a family representative of thousands of military families.”

Sinise said it helps to communicate the effect that war has had on “our defenders” and their families, and that the troops deserve support.

“I will admit that perhaps somewhere among the masses of people who are going to see the film there may be a few that might have some anger or have been angry at some point in their lives, but, with all due respect, what the hell are you talking about?” Sinise concluded.

It’s hardly the first time a public figure has been ripped for his comments about “American Sniper.”  As noted in this piece in The Washington Post, the movie has prompted a cultural war of words in which some have praised the film for depicting veterans’ struggles while others have derided it as propaganda.

Movie director Michael Moore criticized the appreciation Kyle has received because of the film’s release.

“My uncle killed by sniper in WW2. We were taught snipers were cowards. Will shoot u in the back. Snipers aren’t heroes,” Moore tweeted. He later backtracked after angry responses, saying he wasn’t directly referring to “American Sniper.”

Among those to respond angrily to Moore were former governor Sarah Palin (R-Alaska) and Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer, who were photographed together with a sign that used an expletive to dismiss Moore.

The photo was posted online by Meyer and Palin’s daughter, Bristol. The vowels in Moore’s last name on the sign were filled in with crosshairs.

Clint Eastwood's new film "American Sniper" has become the latest battleground in the culture wars. Washington Post columnist Alyssa Rosenberg explains why its politics matter. (Jorge Ribas/The Washington Post)

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