Sunday, April 12, 2009

Gran Torino

Gran Torino is a movie directed by and starring Clint Eastwood. The movie takes place in a neighborhood that has changed a lot since Walt (Clint Eastwood) had started living there. Walt's wife is dead at the beginning and you are lead to believe that she was the one shining light in his life, the one thing keeping him following a good road. Walt is a troubled man that fought in the Korean war and has many demons because of it. He's also a racist man who can't come to terms with the way his neighborhood is changing.

Walt owns a vintage mint condition Gran Torino, coveted by everyone who sees it. His neighbor Thao unwillingly tries to steal it because his cousin, who is in a gang, forces him to. Walt fights back and so their stories connect. Later the boy is in trouble with that same gang in Walt's lawn and Walt scares them off with a gun to protect his lawn. After that, even though Walt fights it all he can, his life and lives of the family next door are forever connected. Walt tries to protect his new friends from the life that they must inevitably become part of with intimidation and a lack of caring that only can belong to someone who's seen the ugliest side of man in others and himself (they reference the war often).

Most of the acting around Clint Eastwood was pretty weak. The actor who played the priest and the actor who played Thao in particular were very very bad. Clint Eastwood just grunting and sneering at people made for better acting than most of the characters in this movie.

Another problem for me was the way that Walt's character was used. I was a huge fan of Clint Eastwood growing up and I thought that he was one of the most imposing actors around. In this movie Eastwood masterfully plays the role of an old man who is behind the times and doesn't really fit in modern society. He was once a war hero who is now a feeble old man who refuses to admit that to himself. In a way you feel bad for this racist bastard because of what he's had to go through in his life and the way he is treated by his loved ones (though most of that is his own fault). With all of this built up, we are lead to believe that Walt (because he's Clint Eastood) can strike fear into the hearts of gangs with "old-fashioned" guts. We are also lead to believe that this racist old man not only befriends an Asian family next door but comes into their home as a welcomed guest and still calls them racial slurs to their faces. I wasn't necessarily offended, I think the movie thought that it was more groundbreaking racially than it was, I just found it hard to believe.

In the end this movie falls flat. It leaves you wondering what their message really was and if you really care enough to try and think about what it was. The ending felt like an odd mix of Joe Schumacher's Falling Down and a old Adam West Batman show.

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