Gran Torino

January 7, 2009 by  
Filed under Suzie's Movies

Clint Eastwood comes out with another movie close on the heels of his last venture, The Changeling. Gran Torino is however, a very different sort of movie with a very different feel. It will, no doubt, attract a very different audience as well. Unlike The Changeling which was finely crafted in meticulous detail and marvelous to look at , Grand Torino felt quickly made, almost thrown together. It has the look and feel of a story told in a bar instead of a piece of literature. Don’t get me wrong, I loved this movie, as did the rest of the audience that viewed it. Heck, a bunch of people stood up and applauded during the closing credits. It may even pull in big box office dollars. It just didn’t have that solidly crafted feel that Eastwood’s best films have. (Think, Unforgiven or Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil)

Clint Eastwood stars in the movie as Walt Kowalski, a recently widowed Korean war vet that just wants to be left alone in his self imposed misery. He’s grumpy, growly and an irascible, very un-PC raciest. Somehow we still come to love him. (He is, after all, Clint Eastwood.) We follow Walt for a short week while he is thrown full force back into living life. Walt’s Asian neighbor’s son , in a gang initiation, attempts to steal Walt’s prize possession, a pristine, 1972 Ford Gran Torino. (obviously these kids never saw Dirty Harry.) Such an action only inflames Walt’s racist attitudes. The neighboring family opts to handle their son’s disgrace by indenturing him to Walt for a week. During this time Walt learns to appreciate their culture and the unique problems they face as immigrants. While the movie is packed with laugh out loud moments it eventually brings us back to the reality of what it means to live in a ghetto.

Points to Clint Eastwood for his acting and for his decision to cast real Hmong actors in the appropriate roles. Unfortunately many of the actors selected were inexperienced. For many of them, this was their first time on screen. Some key scenes suffered due to their lack of skill and this distracted from the solemnity of the final few scenes. It’s a shame but I think given a little more time and a little coaching, better performances from the supporting actors would have helped polish this movie into an academy contender. As it is it’s still a great flick but will unfortunately be put on the end of the Eastwood shelf next to Bronco Billy and Space Cowboys. Good, fun and clever but not great.

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