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Gran Torino (7/10)
by Tony Medley
Run Time 116 minutes.
Not for children.
As Clint Eastwood has aged, he has gotten
progressively enamored with death. “Million Dollar Baby” was his homage
to giving up and ended in an Eastwood-approved suicide. Now, in this, he
once again embraces death and giving up as a wonderful ending to a movie
and message for the living.
Detroit, Walt Kowalski
(Eastwood) is a retired worker from an auto plant, recently widowed,
unhappy Korean War vet who hates everyone who isn’t white, apparently
never having come to grips with what he did in the war. He particularly
hates his neighbors, a Hmong family from Vietnam,
especially after the son, Thao (Bee Vang), tries to steal his prized
1972 Gran Torino in order to initiate himself into a local gang,
although much against his will. Walt is befriended by Thao’s sister, Sue
(Ahney Her), and his softening up begins.
softened, Walt takes up the cudgel to defend the Hmongs against the gang
that is harassing Thao. This is the old Eastwood of Dirty Harry fame. As
such, he’s an appealing misanthrope. He says what he thinks without
putting it through a politically correct filter.
The film was written by first-timer Nick
Schenk, who wrote it in a bar in Minnesota, where he
works. It finally found its way into Eastwood’s hands who accepted it
and shot it without changing a word of the script.
Second billed in the film is Christopher
Carley, who plays a Catholic priest, Father Janovich. Carley is just not believable as a
Catholic priest, but maybe that’s the fault of the director (Eastwood).
The movie apparently had no Catholic advisor
because there are lots of things that Catholics don’t do, like making
the Sign of the Cross when they genuflect. Oh, you’ll see a few
Catholics do that, but the vast majority don’t. In this film, they all
Eastwood spends almost the entire two hours
grunting; the grunts becoming comic relief, much like John Wayne’s
constant lament," That'll be the day,” in “The Searchers” (1956). Like
Robert Newton’s “Aaaargh” in “Treasure
Island” (1950), which has gone down in
history, Eastwood’s grunts are well-timed and bring lots of laughs.
Clint gives a good, vintage Eastwood
performance, as do Ahney Her and Bee Vang, and the film is entertaining.