Gran Torino (2008)
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Bee Vang, Ahney Her
Directed By: Clint Eastwood
Rating: 8.0 (out of 10)
Clint Eastwood is such a man. Everything he does exudes blatant manliness, and his angry Walt Kowalski in Gran Torino is no exception. Kowalski hates everyone. He doesn't like his neighbors, he doesn't like his priest, and he doesn't like his own family. He feels like his sons are good for nothing, his grandchildren are good for less than that, and that his best friends in the world are his dog and his never ending supply of Pabst Blue Ribbon. The only thing constantly by his side is his shotgun.
As the movie opens, we learn that Kowalski's wife has just passed away, leaving him all alone in a world he very much dislikes. In a few early scenes, we quickly see that Walt doesn't want anything to do with anyone he doesn't respect (everyone). His sons are ready to take off as soon as they can after the funeral, his granddaughter spends her time "mourning" over text messages, and his priest just wants him to come to confession. Walt can't be bothered with anyone of this, and he also can't be bothered in any capacity by his Hmong neighbors, who he resents simply because they aren't white and he doesn't understand them.
Eastwood comes up with racial epithets for his character I swear I've never heard at all in Torino. It's downright over-the-top how frequently Walt tries to insult his Asian neighbors, even if there appears to be no reason at all to do so. Left alone in the wake of his wife's death, Kowalski begins to interact with these neighbors, and takes a legitimate liking to Sue (Ahney Her). He sees her as spunky, intelligent, and interesting. Gradually he also sees the good in her quiet younger brother Thao (Bee Vang), who winds up working for Walt after being forced by his gang-dwelling cousin to try and steal Walt's most prized possession, a 1972 Gran Torino.
The quick, somewhat surprising ending is sort of appropriate. I'm obviously not going to flatly say what it is, but it's sad and faintly disappointing. But it also makes sense, and there's sort of a build up to it once you recap what you've seen in your head. I mean, was there another way?
It's rather obvious that Gran Torino's intention is to show that we're all on this earth together, and that we all need to get along. Racism is stupid, petty, and ignorant, and if a guy like Walt can get past it, can't we all? The film adeptly follows Walt and Thao's simultaneous transformations. Walt becomes the loving, tolerant man he has always been capable of being. Thao becomes the confident, sharp kid that has always been bubbling beneath the surface. The key is, they really need each other to make this happen, and their journey is an inspired one. Gran Torino is emotionally involving, and all of the principal actors turn in satisfactory performances, even if this isn't anywhere near Eastwood's best work. After all, he can play a mean-ass son of a bitch in his sleep. While Gran Torino is a bit formulaic and preachy, it's also a very good film that is enjoyable to watch and know how to manipulate the audience's emotions. It also really drives home the notion that anyone is capable of what they allow themselves to become, for better or worse.
So I totally used to write tiny lil' review nuggets on MySpace every time I saw a movie. I've decided I might as well throw those up here, along with adjusted ratings for the new system. Here you go, salt shakers.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Monday, January 14, 2008
Friday, January 04, 2008