International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year:Two Views of Gran Torino
Directed and Starring Clint Eastwood
Michael Webb review
I've got one. A Mexican, a Jew, and a colored guy go into a bar.
The bartender looks up and says, Get the fuck out of here.
me start by saying something simple. This film delivers absolutely
nothing new. The story of hard man turned good has been done over
and again. Yet Gran Torino manages to give this well worn story
a new vitality.
Eastwood plays a Korean War veteran. His catholic wife has just passed
away. Our protagonist is left in his house with his dog as the only
companion. And who would happen to be moving into his neighborhood?
Well if you havent guessed it happens to be people from Korea.
Ok, so we can see where this is going already. Hard-boiled Clint Eastwood
is going to give them a rough time for a while but will then turn out
to like them. And all of his stereotypical views on these people will
have vanished. Weve all seen this kind of set up before.
But what makes this film is not the obvious outcome. It is the journey
we see the characters go through. Eastwoods character becomes
rather fond of one of the Vietnamese children named Thao. Thao is unfortunate
enough to be affiliated with a ruthless gang of which his older cousin
is a member.
Thao is torn, as an adolescent going through a difficult period he is
persuaded to try and steal Eastwoods car. His prized Gran Torino.
As punishment he is forced to work for Eastwood for a week. This gives
him time to befriend Thoa. After the week is complete Eastwood takes
it upon himself to try and steer Thoa on the straight and narrow. A
lot of comedy is derived from these sequences.
In fact it is in my opinion that Gran Torino manages to be quite
comical throughout. Most of the comedy is manifested through racial
difference. It is done completely tastelessly and extremely rudely.
This however is what makes it controversial and therefore funny. I dont
think this film would have been received as well maybe even five years
a go. I certainly appreciate the fact that people are finally becoming
less politically correct so that we can enjoy these sorts of interactions
between different races.
People might not like to see it. But this sort of race hate is happening
all the time. And I for one think it is very admirable of this film
to be dealing with those differences.
It is important to establish our protagonists relations with his
own family. Eastwood clearly does not get a long with his sons and considers
them to be selfish. This further isolates Eastwood from any human contact.
It is almost as if he is adopting this Thao boy. Perhaps seeing his
upbringing of his own boys to be a failure. How many people get on with
their family really? Eastwoods dysfunctional family is very modern
and allows the majority of the audience to sympathize with the character.
Perhaps making people look at their own family situation.
The ghosts of the people he killed in the war haunt Eastwood.
"We shot men, stabbed them with bayonets, chopped up 17 year olds
An arrogant young priest is constantly visiting him. And is eventually
persuaded to confess to his sins. The film is full of religious connotations.
Most of which are fairly obvious.
Lets look at some buzzwords and themes to sum up the Gran Torino
Its about change, its about faith and Its about acceptance.
I would recommend this film to just about anyone. It has character and
heart. The ending is very nicely delivered and will probably come as
something of a shock.
© Michael Webb
May 2009 - Michael is studying drama at the University of Portsmouth
ALT VIEW OF GRAN TORINO
Torino ... looking for the hero.
Once again I have read another review of this by many people adored
movie and once again I have found almost no reason for this acclamation
in it. It is just nicely done, some say. And it is not politically
correct, add others. And Clint Eastwood.
about it. But the film is really good and above mentioned are not reasons
for this. Not the main reasons anyway. So what makes it so special?
What makes this one case of eternal archetypal story different? I think
it is its hero. A hero who is very often forgotten by critics, a hero
who, in the end, had been forgotten even by the scriptwriters; deliberately,
I guess. In is not Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood). And it is not the
useless "Zipperhead" Thao (Bee Vang).
Dont get me wrong, they both are important for they are creating
the necessary diversion. But there is something even more important
in these old ancient stories than a simple hero - an actualization.
The strange thing is this one is maybe even more archetypal than
the story itself.
There is a well known true people like genre movies. They are
easy to grasp and they sound always familiar. People always loved retellings
of popular stories. And genre films give this to them. But a good genre
film offers them something more, something new and surprising. In this
case it is this forgotten hero (I hope you who have seen the film know
already who that is). It is not the language, it is not the political
incorrectness. It is not Eastwoods acting (honestly, how could
he ever surpass his younger ego in Sergio Leones films?). It is
Sue Lor, Thaos sister. She is the todays hero, heroine.
And maybe even all-times hero (Heroine. But who cares about gender
correctness? We are talking about symbols...).
What is more heroic to be rude all the time, then melt a little,
have a best time of your life and die, soothing all your nightmares,
and then take all the credit for it; or to try change the world around
you a little, succeed in this effort, pay for it dearly and be forgotten?
Walt Kowalski is the easy-to-identify-with type of hero, Euripidess
hero from Ancient Greeks myths. Sue (Ahney Her) is some kind of
the background hero, hard to identify with but showing the only possible
way of actual todays heroism. She is the one who changes Walt
and Thao, she is the one who stays optimistic for most of the story
although there is very little to be optimistic for. She drives the story.
And she dies because of it, "dies" in a way she should be
seen as a symbol of change. Neither Walt nor Thao could represent
this. It is a task for a different type of hero. And this girl is a
representation of once-again-found hero of our times. And therefore
she had to be forgotten again in the end, she had to stay unseen...
I guess I should have not written this review...
Gran Torino is not a simple movie, not a simple story. It is just written
to be perceived so. But all the little details, all the really interesting
characters and stories in the background manage to affect the sub-consciousness
of the audience (at least in my case they did so). The ability to hide
something important and interesting in many ways behind the simplicity
makes it more than a simple film about a simple guy. I just hope the
creators had seen this in the first place. That it is not just a coincidence.
Because, in the first case, we could have got (quite) new and more then
capable scriptwriters (Nick Schenk, Dave Johansson). Otherwise we have
got just one great movie. But hallelujah for that.
© Josef Fiser May 4th 2009
Josef is a writer living in Europe and occasional contributor to Hackwriters
Some films are just a collection of clichés. These films
can disappoint, they can comfort, they can bore, or they can turn everything
on its head and surprise us
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