Friday, April 12, 2013

Gran Torino

Have you met someone you shouldn't have F$#ked with?


I had seen "Gran Torino" when it first came out in theaters: however, I took a second look at this film when it came to DVD, because my initial impression kept haunting me.  I have to say that I liked this movie very much.  I liked the story, a lost young man looking for his place in the world and finding a mentor in the most unlikely of characters.  Filmed on location in Michigan, Clint Eastwood, directed and stars as a crusty widower, Korean vet, detached from his adult children and their families, living out his days in a neighborhood settled mostly by Hmong people.  Newcomers to the screen are fledgling actors, Bee Vang and Ahney Her, plus an appearance by Clint's son, Scott Eastwood has the small part of Trey (as Scott Reeves).  This movie is about change and values, about knowing who you are, and who you want to be.



Walt (Eastwood) uses just about every racist term he can think of in this film.  His new neighbors consist of an Asian family consisting of a grandmother, her daughter, and her daughter's two children, Sue and Thao.  One characteristic between Americans and just about any other race is the matter of family.  Walter "Walt" Kowalski, his two sons, moved out long ago and rarely visit. Walt sits alone on his porch all day drinking beer and eating beef jerky.  On the other hand, his Asian neighbors have family and friends constantly visiting, bringing food and having family celebrations.  The movie focuses on Thao and his sister Sue as second-generation immigrants trying to find a niche in this country.  Thao, around 16, living in a female dominated household, content to read and garden, activities considered in Asian society as "woman's work," is visibly lost.  His sister Sue, a few years older, describes their environment concisely, "the women go to college, the boys go to jail."  Matters worsen for Thao when his cousin, Spider approaches him to join his gang and receive protection from the other gangs.  The initiation to join his Spider 's gang is to steal his neighbor, Walt's 1972 Gran Torino.  Thao botches the auto theft and runs home.  Too dark to see who was trying to steal his prize, Walt is unaware that it is his own neighbor, Thao.  The next evening, Spider and his gang come to give Thao another chance, but the boy's sister, mother, and grandmother interfere.  Spiders, gang of dropouts try to take Thao forcibly.  In the midst of the ruckus, Walt, armed with his army issue M1 Garand comes out "Dirty Harry" style and saves the day.  As the reluctant hero to the Hmong community, his neighbors shower him with gifts of flowers and food, arriving on his porch daily.  Sue, her mother, and Thao insist that Thao repays Walt for trying to steal his car by working for him.  Reluctantly, as Walt does not want anything to do with these people, agrees to the work arrangement and the two of them begin a journey together that make this an excellent movie.  The other character to watch for is Thao's sister Sue, although a stronger, smarter character than her brother, she too is a victim of her environment.


Right away, the acting of two supporting characters will come in question.  I say the supporting cast played their parts strong, and added a depth to the story, the human element.  Bee Vang's portrayal of Thao at times seems awkward, out of place and lost.  Teen-aged boys, growing up without a strong male role model, are awkward, out of place and are certainly lost.  Bee Vang is a natural for this part.


Like the "Dirty Harry" movies, the Spaghetti westerns of Eastwood's early films, or even "Pale Rider," or “The Unforgiven,”  this movie stands out for the journey that each of the character make toward finding themselves.  Walt, Thao, Sue, Sue's grandmother, Father Janovich, and even Spider and his gang.  Each of the characters, making this journey of self discovery ties together throughout the movie by one thing, Walter Kowalski's 1972 Gran Torino.  The 1972 Gran Torino that Walt installed the steering column as it rolled out of the factory.  The Gran Torino that Thao attempted to steal, the Gran Torino that is the envy of the town, the Gran Torino that Walt's inconsiderate granddaughter asks for when he dies.  The Gran Torino that Thao must wash as part of his penitence, the Gran Torino that Walt allowed Thao to drive his first date to the prom in.  In the reading of Walt's Last Will & Testament, the Gran Torino does not go to his granddaughter, Ashley, who is an insensitive brat.  Instead, Walt gives the Gran Torino to Thao.  The Gran Torino gives Thao the opportunity for a new life.  The car, like Walt is an antique, a reminder of the past.


I wanted my kids to see this movie in spite of the swearing and racial slurs.

Movie Data

Genre:  Drama
Year:  2008
Staring: Clint Eastwood, Christopher Carley, Bee Vang. Ahney Her
Director:  lint Eastwood
Producer(s) Clint Eastwood, Bill Gerber
Writer: Nick Schenk, Dave Johannson
Rating: R