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Gran Torino

Gran Torino

From the posters and from the ads, one would think that Gran Torino would be a solemn, action-packed film filled with one-liners designed to make the knees of an enemy shake and admit defeat even before the shot is fired. This is, after all, Clint Eastwood. Dirty Harry, the Unforgiven. These movies created this persona that Eastwood has now that he will shoot every person who violates his law and then sit back and have a beer two minutes after. This image is as important to the film Gran Torino as everything else that you actually see in the film. The film works because he was Dirty Harry before and carries that image into this movie.

Given that, Gran Torino is one of the funniest movies I have seen in years. Eastwood has always had a knack for one-liners and now, when it is put into a different context, it’s just funny as hell. Let me explain.

The story is about an old-timer American war veteran who is a product of the yesteryear’s upbringing both good and bad. Children should be respectful to elders and should dress decently. Old men know more than young people and there are no two ways about it. He is also estranged from his idiot of a family who knows nothing about caring for him. Additionally, this point of view and his time as a soldier fighting in the Korean War has enforced in him racial stereotyping. He hates the fact that foreigners now live in the US, particularly his own neighborhood which has now been taken over by Asians and Mexicans. After an incident that made him into a hero to the Asian community in the neighborhood, he is befriended by the next door neighbors and becomes a mentor to a young Asian kid who lives there.

Kowalski (Eastwood) kept using racial taunts against the people around him throughout the movie and it got funnier and funnier especially when they are no longer really used as a taunt but as a tease on his now best-friends. He softens up in time and teaches the young kid how to be a man. These scenes are poignant and heartwarming without being overly dramatic and sappy.

A lot of people believe that Gran Torino should have been nominated for an Oscar and I firmly believe that it should not. The biggest reason for this is the Godawful supporting cast that surrounded Eastwood. Note to Hollywood: There are a lot of good Asian actors out there. As good as Eastwood is, you will cringe every time he talks to one of his cast members. With the sole exception of Ahney Ler who played Sue Lor, the sister of the boy he is mentoring, the rest of the cast should not be allowed to act ever again. Watching them with Eastwood is like watching a great ballroom dancer with a wooden stool with two broken legs as a partner. It was so bad that the subtitles do not even seem to match the acting and the words they are saying.

Gran Torino is worth watching if only because it is supposedly Eastwood’s last film as an actor. He was great, no doubt about it. But I almost wanted to shoot the supporting cast, Dirty Harry-style.

Rating: 8 out of 10


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