2008. 116 Minutes. Rated R.
By John Struzziero & Peter Struzziero
Quote: Man, did I learn a lot.
John: Clint Eastwood is scary as hell, in Gran Torino for sure (maybe in real life, too). You simply don’t want to be in the gang who abuses your baby cousin’s family, or you’ll have a tall gun pointed right in your face by a man looking very angry, as his eyes light up with fire, and you’ll hear him say “GET OFF MY LAWN, NOW!” We see what likely happened to The Man With No Name when he got old. This entire movie deals with issues of racism, ageism, family ties, and a touch of religion. The story opens in church where Walt (Eastwood) is accepting regrets at his wife’s funeral. We will find he hasn’t the slightest interest in his family otherwise. Just as he is beginning to settle back into a routine, he meets his Mgung neighbors next door, who he has nothing but contempt for since he is a combat veteran with haunting memories of Korea. Despite his hostility towards them, they are nothing but hospitable.. (Peter: except for the crazy Grandmother)
Peter: It’s just not something that’s good for your health, to have Walt Kowalski pointing a gun in your face. We see from the beginning that racism is going to be a central theme throughout. If racial slurs are something that will ruin your day, you might be better off watching something a little tamer, maybe The Long Walk Home.
Sue (Ahney Her) and Thau (Bee Vang) are the youngest of the family, just teenagers.They try to be obedient, and avoid peer pressure from a cousin’s gang, who have their sights set on Thau. His initiation? Steal the beautiful Gran Torino from the man next door. Little do they know, that guy, who acts like Dirty Harry (ta daaaaaa) won’t be letting his ride go that easily.
John: So while this family treats Walt with hospitality he still has reservations towards Thau because, well, he was going to steal his car. It’s more understandable that Walt would be very hesitant to even let Thau work for him, but he does so at the behest of Thau’s mother, who feels disgraced.
There is a sub-story that is also happening between the Priest (Christopher Carley) and Walt, who aside from going to his wife’s funeral, really has no interest in church. One thing I found personally touching was not just how his wife wanted the Priest to check up on him every day, but how eventually the Priest winds up understanding Walt in a whole new way. His relationship with Walt develops very slowly, but the arch is certainly there. Can you imagine a Catholic Priest being inspired by a non-church goer? What if the Priest is too prideful, set in his ways, and won’t budge? Let’s talk about a very young Priest who in some ways thinks he can cookie cutter his way out of preaching, make house calls, visit parishioners, live by duty, but doesn’t think outside of the box. What really broke the ice for the two of them was in a pivotal scene, where the Priest ended up hitting the bar, and sharing a drink with Walt. It is at this point the Priest then realizes that power isn’t just found in a leadership position, It results from hard work and making huge, uncomfortable sacrifices. Exactly what Walt did upon serving in the Korean War, well not exactly, but same same. After this point in the movie there isn’t just a cold relationship going on. They develop a friendship and only then is it possible for the Priest to truly get into the heart and soul of Walt’s life. As a result, this Priest was rather inspired by Walt’s life by the end of the film, even admitting “Man did I learn alot”
As the movie goes on, gang violence explodes and throws the neighborhood into disarray. Thau wants revenge! He and Walt will save the day. Right? Well… we won’t ruin the whole thing. It’s a solid ending, though, in what’s otherwise not too suspenseful of a film. Deep, without question; a brilliant piece of film
Peter: Eastwood was the director of the film as well as the lead, and made a few decisions that I really enjoyed. Namely casting unknowns in the leads. Not only unknowns, but debut actors. They’d never done a thing previously, and it translated very well on screen. They didn’t seem like actors, they seemed like people. Clint Eastwood was an old man acting like an old man, so hey, that worked out pretty good too. Don’t look now, but he sang the song playing during the credits too. Odd, yeah?
I like the notion of seeing what could have happened to a tough guy when he gets old. In 1992, Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven got 4 Oscars for Best Picture, Actor, Director and Film Editor. I loved that movie, specifically because I connected it to that Man with no name character.When I watch Unforgiven, I truly get a sense for what may have happened to that world famous gunslinger, when he was past his prime: the old gunman, full of memories and a little regret. Eastwood played it to a T. He (unlike his character) was still in his prime, a new prime.
Gran Torino helped me make that same connection with the Dirty Harry character. Maybe it wasn’t his intent, but it happened all the same. Dirty Harry was a bad ass cop… and Walt was a bleeding heart American soldier who went to work for an American car company for most of his life after the war.
I was on the fence about this one. John loved it, and that made me pay more attention to it. After we talked about how much he liked it, I checked it out again, and left all my opinions on the shelf. It was better than I realized at first.