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Thoughts on "Gran Torino" . . .

Posted by 2 Dollar Productions Monday, February 09, 2009

{Editor's Note: $2 Dollar Productions is trapped inside all-day company meetings from Monday through Wednesday. If you hear any word by mid-week, please send a search party to Austin.}

Worth Full-Price, Matinee or Rental: Matinee. If you love Clint Eastwood, then you could likely justify full price, however, this movie makes for a very rewarding matinee flick. It would also be a fine rental, and wouldn't suffer much in the transition to the small screen.

Will I Own It On DVD: Maybe. If I could find it for under $10, then I might grab it, especially if it turns out to be Eastwood's last starring role as he's hinted in some interviews.

1) "Gran Torino" focuses on Eastwood, a recently widowed Army veteran, and his relationship to his neighborhood which he considers under siege from an influx of Asians. His character - Walt - is an equal opportunity bigot (African-Americans, Hispanics, Gays, Jews, etc. are all disparaged), and generally a miserable human being. If Walt wasn't played by Eastwood, it would have been much harder to pull any shred of empathy from the audience, however, by sheer force of will, Eastwood makes viewers care about his character.

2) Eastwood also directed "Gran Torino," and his steady hand helps elevate the material above potential Lifetime movie of the week melodrama once Walt forms a relationship with the father-less Asian teenagers who live next door, and find themselves menaced by gang members. The film only occasionally veers towards blatant sentiment, mostly in the beginning, but in-between lies a well-paced product anchored by its star.

3) It is a testament to the power of Eastwood that he can still provoke fear as he approaches 80-years-old. His voice is a series of guttural growls, a harsh sound that serves him well as he barks insults at various characters. And he still posseses enough physicality as well as access to weaponary to worry groups of teenage gangbangers.

4) Unfortunately, the supporting cast isn't quite as strong. Tao, the Asian teenager who bonds with Eastwood, is distinctly uncharismatic and wholly unbelievable in a few scenes. I hesitate to criticize the actor as I imagine it's one of his first roles, but he does the movie no favors in the majority of his screen time.

5) Other than having to stomp an occasional gang member, Eastwood's retirement looked pretty fine to me. He would sit on his porch with his dog, drinking coffee in the mornings before switching to a cooler full of Pabst Blue Ribbon later in the day while watching the world go by. If you added books and a flat-screen TV/DVD player, then I'd be all for it, and I found it no surprise that Eastwood's mood turns sour when others try to intrude upon his time.

"Gran Torino" is not a great movie. Eastwood's skill both in front of and behind the camera, however, squeeze every drop of potential out of the source material, which makes for a worthy film that still manages to entertain.



  1. BostonPobble Says:
  2. I really want to see this one, although I'm not quite sure why. There's just something about it. A note ~ I read that Eastwood intentionally cast kids who weren't actors for the supporting cast because he wanted the characters to have a street sense and come to the roles from a place of actual reality instead of an actor's "reality" so that would ~ if it's true ~ address the issues you had with the young man. It certainly makes sense.

    Mid-week. You have until mid-week before we deploy. ;)

  3. Word Cop Says:
  4. "equal opportunity racist (African-Americans, Hispanics, Gays, Jews, etc."

    Hispanics, Gays and Jews aren't races. You should have used "bigot" not "racist".

    Interesting review and interesting factoid provided by Boston, if true.

    "Fire-Proof" is an excellent recent movie that deserves a review by you. In that case, it is DEFINATELY TRUE that non-actors were cast with great skill. Kirk Cameron was about the only person in the cast with an extensive hollyweird background.

  5. Miss Ash Says:
  6. I was just going to say that I had never heard of this movie....and then...ta da I remembered that I saw the preview at the theatre. Yay!! I doubt I'll go and see it.

  7. Linda Says:
  8. I had a lot of trouble getting beyond the constant barage of ethnic slurs in this script. Though Walt's character evolved in his actions, his words never did. I did like the ending and the music, especially the closing song. And that car was one sweet ride!

  9. JLee Says:
  10. This is next on my list and I usually like Eastwood in whatever role he plays (well, almost all) I just saw "Push" this weekend and it it was "ok". Have fun in your torture, er meetings!

  11. Boxer Says:
  12. I thought the truly poorly cast actor was the Priest. I assumed he was friend of the family.

    I enjoyed this movie - I enjoyed it because it was honest; getting old is hard, your children grow up and treat you like a child, your neighbors die and are replaced with people/cultures you may not understand. He was a man with Old World Values in a New World. A world where his son SOLD foreign cars and he spent his life BUILDING American cars. A world with female doctors and neighbors who looked like the enemy he was trained to kill, but held the same values he did. So many great images, moments, scenes. And yes, not a great movie, but a movie that stayed with me long after the credits rolled.

    The scene when he finally gives the true confession to the boy through the locked screen door to the basement? That was my favorite.

  13. I was going to go see this over the weekend, but decided to write instead. I should've gone to the movie.

  14. grace Says:
  15. I love Clint Eastwood! I'm definitely going out to see this one :)

  16. slopmaster Says:
  17. Yea, there is something about the movie, about Eastwood, that just draws you to him. He could film himself peeing and he would still inspire fear.

  18. Heff Says:
  19. That's a pisser. The way this movie was built up, I thought it was going to be GREAT.

    I guess they can't ALL be "Every Which Way But Loose" lol !

  20. idobcool Says:
  21. I agree with every word of your review on this. The poor acting by 'Toad' almost ruined the movie but overall, I liked it.

  22. Bostonpobble - Thanks for the information as I assumed that might be the case . . . At least I hoped so. Ha. I felt the same way you did about seeing this one, and I think it was mainly because I'm an Eastwood fan and I figured he would elevate the material. He did.

    Word Cop - You're right. 100% and it has been amended as I rarely do that, however, I am always a fan of accurate word use, so thanks. As for "Fire-Proof," I don't know if I can stomach any movie that prominently features Kirk Cameron (and I thought Howie Long was in it . . . Must be a similar title I'm thinking of).

    Miss Ash - You're getting better about staying on top of the current and future movies that are out. Ha. At least you know about this one, and if the plot or Eastwood doesn't interest you, then I would suggest you skip it as well.

    Linda - One sweet ride indeed . . . And I agree about the music as well. As for the wording, I felt the EXACT same way somewhere around 2/3 of the way through the film when he was enjoying their company, I thought he could have toned down the slurs. He didn't have to eliminate them all together, but maybe just cut some of them out.

    Jlee - "Push," eh? Better you than me. Ha. That being said, I do tend to like Dimon Hinsu (sp?). Thanks for the luck with the meetings as I did manage to survive. Barely. :)

    Boxer - The priest was shaky as well. I thought he rallied (somewhat) after a tough beginning, and I think anyone who isn't really good would have a tought time opposite Eastwood. "He was a man with Old World Values in a New World" - exactly. I was thinking the same thing, and I imagine that kind of feeling would be very though & could make anyone a tad grouchy. Ha. As for the scene you mention, I agree as Eastwood was very good in that one, but man, I thought the kid was NOT. When he tried to get angry and bang against the bars – lame. Let’s see some passion, eh?

    Native Minnow – You could have done both. This film might have put you in an interesting frame of mind to work on your paper. Ha. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad . . .
    Grace – I’m there with you on Eastwood. Enjoy it as it might be his last starring role (maybe).

    Slopmaster – “He could film himself peeing and he would still inspire fear.” Ha. I agree as that guy is still intimidating.

    Heff – It was a very good movie, so you should definitely go catch it – maybe even in the theater. Screw DISH. Ha. And yes, an orangutang (sp?) might have made it better.

    Idobcool – Thanks as I thought Toad was a detriment in many, many scenes. But as you noted, overall, I definitely enjoyed the movie.


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