Film Review: Gran Torino
I'm in my early 30s. My parents are approximately 35 years older than me, placing them just a few years younger than Clint Eastwood's Walt Kowalski. They saw Gran Torino a few days before me and, being lovers of Eastwood, vastly enjoyed Clint's last hurray as a Harry Callahan-like badass (I have to assume it's his last at age 78, but one never knows). Within a few frames of the film, I could see exactly what it is that they (and countless others in their demographic, not to mention most folks with common sense) would love about Kowalski: yeah, he's a bitter old prick, but the man's got principles. He's done hard manual labor his whole life and earned every penny he made, and has immense pride not only for himself but for his surroundings as well, be they his prized Gran Torino, the neighborhood he no longer recognizes, or even the church he has little interest in attending (and he'll be damned if his punk grandchildren are gonna disrespect it or him). He takes nothing from anyone, takes nothing for granted, and you better damn well do the same. So, you can imagine the heavy heart that it gives me to say this: Gran Torino is not a very good film. Now, that's not to say that it's not an enjoyable film. It's a goddamned insensitive laugh riot that rivals Borat and outdoes Archie Bunker in its equal opportunity name-calling and uneasy situational comedy, and as loathe as we may be to admit it, we're a bloodthirsty society and love seeing a righteous Clint kick ass, sins be damned. Since we know it's good guy Clint Eastwood starring, we know from the start that Walt isn't a hateful bigot, just an ignorant one set in his ways and used to an America that no longer exists - and he has no time or intention to learn about the Hmong immigrants that have "infested" his neighborhood. Many a laugh is garnered from Walt's insensitivity; he has no problem calling a roomful of neighbors "slants" or "gooks," and quite possibly derives more pleasure from their discomfort with him. After all, icy cold Walt would rather have them all just pack up ship and move back to wherever the hell they came from than bother learning anything about them. But as sure as death and taxes, so are we assured that the Grinch's heart will grow 3x by the end of the day, and that all that is just and right with the world will be as God intended. Along the way, we'll be subjected to, amongst other things: spotty acting from Eastwood's otherwise likable junior cast mates (specifically Ahney Her and Bee Vang as a sister-brother pair that get to know Walt the most over the course of the film), a bevy of bad sitcom-level writing, paper-thin characters (only Walt and Vang's Thao have qualities that go beyond the surface), and a few clues that perhaps lead us to believe that maybe Eastwood had just a bit too much to do with the production. Really Clint - singing a theme song over the end credits?
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