Review: Gran Torino

Monday, January 12 by

I didn’t get the point of Gran Torino. I also don’t get the point when racist old people ramble about how discontent they are with what the world has become. But much like Gran Torino, I enjoy the every-loving hell out of watching them do it.

This is supposedly the final film by Clint Eastwood. Good way to go out, because it feels like at least three different movies rolled into one. It’s angry soliloquy by an aged Dirty Harry dropped into a race-reversal version of the Karate Kid built around the same issues of intolerance as Crash. It’s a meandering story that feels more like a combination of devices than a coherent statement.

But in its wandering there are some fantastic scenes, most of them dealing with the juxtaposition of an overtly-racist Eastwood spewing intolerance at anyone within three feet of his wrinkly, cigarette-holding mouth. And it’s not just minorities and ‘the other’ that absorb his vitriol– his kids, friends, barber, and priest are all victim to his particular brand of Pabst-loving, Ford-Plant-Working, "I was in Korea so fuck off" H8te.

Minorities, however, do get the most of it, and this is why the experience of watching the movie amongst a theatre of people is really great. Eastwood says more racist shit in the course of this film than seems possible, and the crowd laughs at it. What should be utterly unacceptable by all PC standards ends up being funny. The question is, why do moviegoers give him a pass?

From what I can tell, it’s a two part answer. Part A is that we understand where he’s coming from. He’s a white male who has seen his entire world deteriorate. The houses on either side of him have fallen into disrepair and become filled with the people he thinks were shooting at him in the War. Crime is rampant in his neighborhood and it’s not whites doing the drive by’s. Part B is that we understand that he is a character. His detestable sentiments are part of a larger message within the film, and we forestall judgement so the movie can go on.  

The problem is that I’m not totally sure what that larger point really is. Is the message that violence begets violence? Is it that its not the color of your skin that makes you an asshole, its being an asshole that makes you an asshole? Is it that we can learn to love our Hmong immigrant neighbors if we would just run out of Pabst more often and wander into their Potlucks? Is it that American culture is a vapid thing where the fiber of family has dissolved under the isolation of gated communities, SUV’s, and text messaging?

The answer is Yes.  Go SEE IT and decide for yourse. 8.5/10

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