Sunday, February 15, 2009

Gran Torino

Can I say before I begin this post that I love Clint Eastwood. I have been a fan since Sergio Leone and his spaghetti westerns. No one does the tough bad ass routine better than Clint Eastwood no matter how old he is. This much is still true in this movie. Now if you were like me and you saw this trailer you would have been like ok, this is Clint Eastwood from Dirty Harry and those bad ass westerns. After watching the trailer, you are thinking, old racist man kills hoodlums that trespass on his yard, "Get off my lawn!." Well you would be wrong. This movie is not entirely as it seems. It is certainly not an action flick.Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood) has just buried his wife of 40 plus years and is finding the quiet life by himself to be very difficult. He is a veteran of Korea, a point he grumbly spits out when he is annoyed with someone. He throws out racial epithets like a politician hands out promises. He seems distant with his grown children and his grandchildren. And he has an Archie Bunker like complex with his new neighbors. They are Hmong, an ancient culture originally from Central Asia. I had never heard of this culture until this film. Which in my book is a double bonus--it's great to watch a good movie but it's even better if that good movie has some interesting history to tell. So the Hmong people helped fight against the Viet Cong during Vietnam and when the U.S. left they transported them to the states so they would not be massacred. They have a whole different culture than the Chinese, Vietmese and the Koreans. Which Walt learns about from his young neighbor Sue (Ahney Her). Walt, however, has a rocky beginning with Sue's brother Thao (Bee Vang) who is caught trying to steal the old timer's kick ass Gran Torino for a local gang. Over time Walt comes to like the kid and is determined to get him an honest job away from the gangs and to toughen him up. The gang members don't take kindly to it as they turn Walt's neighborhood into a shooting gallery. He gets some interference and some spiritual guidance from the young Priest (Christopher Carley) that he likes to kick around. This has become a typical theme in recent Eastwood films where Clint challenges the higher order regarding life and death. Will Walt go all Dirty Harry on the gangs to save the neighborhood? Well don't just sit there go and see the damn thing.This is a movie about a man living in another time, and by no means is he a nice man or a gentle man, but he has certain values that allow his better side to show. Throughout the film Walt will make you squirm at least a little bit with his tirade of racist slurs, but for some reason underneath all of that is a man of honor. This is not particularly hidden in the film but it seems to come out at all the proper moments to show the complexity of this grizzly old bastard. Eastwood has crafted a very thoughtful and interesting story, that shockingly enough, has not been nominated for Oscar. This film by far is better than his oscar winning film Million Dollar Baby from a few years ago. But who am I to judge. Never the less I recommend this film highly. It's great to see Clint on screen again and the performances from these unknown stars are really something to take in.

Grade 5 Buckets


Captain Mike said...

You've been a fan since the Spaghetti Westerns? Didn't even know you were born in 1964 to see "A Fistful of Dollars!" You're even older than I thought, Belated Birthday Boy!

Jeff said...

obviously I wasn't alive then --but I love Clint Eastwood's early career up until now, how's that. I watched them on TBS religiously as a kid--those Clint Eastwood marathons are legendary.