Comments on watching and making films.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Gran Torino

Clint Eastwood has been the resident Hollywood bad ass for most of his working career. Is it any surprise that his (supposedly) last acting role would be as an aging bad ass who must reconcile the mistakes he has made in his life trying to live up to that image?

Gran Torino follows Eastwood as Walt Kowolski, a recently widowed curmudgeon who lives in an old neighborhood in or around Detroit, that is decaying, and has been over run by immigrants (whom Walt does not look highly upon). After a young Asian boy who lives next door, Thao, tries to steal Walt's cherry '72 Ford Gran Torino to gain entrance into a gang, Walt takes Thao and his sister, Sue, under his wing and tries to teach them about the American work ethic and way of life, while they teach him the beauty and importance of their Asian culture. When Thao is hassled by the gang that he failed to win initiation into, Walt takes it upon himself to protect the family. But, can one elderly man really protect anyone from a gang of machine gun toting thugs?

Gran Torino is laced, from start to finish, with racial epithet's and anyone who is sensitive to this will probably want to sit this film out. That being said, Gran Torino is truly amazing. As Eastwood's last acting stand (and, possibly, his last film period), it stands as a testament to a man who has, from the beginning, made an effort to always be creating, always be learning, always be strengthening. It is a truly American story, about those who were born American, and those sworn into being American, learning from each other and trying to make a better society. It is also a story of a man letting go of his past, of all the Asian faces whose lives he put in end to in Korea, of putting an end to the hatred he was programmed with in order to allow him to do so. It is probably the closest thing to a masterpiece of filmmaking dealing with the here and now that Eastwood has ever made.

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