Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Gran Torino

Got a chance to watch this. I've heard a lot of people saying how good it is, so I figured I would give it a shot. I'll start out with that fact that enjoyed the movie. Clint Eastwood plays Walt Kowalski, a set in his ways Korean war veteran / recent widower with more than a few racial prejudices. The area he lives in has evolved into a Hmong neighborhood, leaving him surrounded by the people he looks down on. His relationship (if you can call it that) with his children (who are grown adults and have families of their own) seems to be strained at best. Through a contrived sequence of events Walt ends up taking one of the Hmong, Thao, under his wing and mentoring him on what it means to be a man. In doing so he also incurs the wraith of a local street gang who has been trying to initiate Thao into their gang. I found the story to be a somewhat interesting commentary on racism. I'm still not exactly sure what it was trying to say about racism. Walt had obviously been conditioned during the war to feel this way. And you can tell as the movie progresses and he learns more about the Hmong culture that he begins to at tolerate it more if not accept it.

There are some quirks to movie. Since most of the movie is Clint Eastwood alone we get lots of scenes with him talking to himself or talking to his dog to let us know what he's thinking. I understand why the writers had to have him do this in order to tell the audience what he was thinking, but it still came across as odd at times. And some of the things Walt teaches about what it means to be a man seem antiquated. I'm unsure whether the movie is pointing out that this is how older people see a man's role in society or whether they really cherish these qualities and wish to see more of them in today's society.

Overall I liked the movie. It's a character development film, and does about as well as you could expect in the short amount of time it has to present it's story. Clint does a fantastic job of playing the grumpy old man (he comes across like a retired Dirty Harry). And while I'm still not sure what all the messages it's trying to say about racism and patriarchal roles are I still enjoyed the film.

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