Saturday, December 20, 2008

Gran Torino

Clint Eastwood plays and directs a low budget film without any recognizable names or faces. Walt Kowalski is his character's name. No reason why he did this, perhaps the same reason his character helps out Tao. A Hmong neighbor of his who is young boy trying to survive high school in his vulnerable teenage years. His cousin is in a gang or the leader of it and does not have any adult guidance. His parents are never shown.

Walt is a retired citizen, living in a neighborhood which has been taken over my minorities. The neighborhood's demographic has changed dramatically but Walt still likes it, he is an old stalwart and cares about the neighborhood progress. He notices the bad characters in the area and steps in the middle of danger when no one else is around and does not have to. His neighbors are Hmong and this culture is a main fabric of the movie.

Walt is a Korean war veteran, and has a gorgeous 1972 Gran Torino. I have never heard of this car but apparently Ford use to make them and Walt actually installed the steering column in the car. Walt is old school, he is a bigot, speaks his mind, and does not have anything to lose. He has allot of tools and his home is in excellent condition. Walt has the time, tools, and wherewithal to maintain his cars and home. He does not drive around his Gran Torino, just maintains it and keeps it covered in his garage. This is how the story takes shape.

Walt's neighbor is a traditional and close knit Hmong family whose son Walt calls toad but is really called Tao. The local gang wants Tao to join them and for initiation, they want Tao to seal his gorgeous Torino. Walt hears someone in his garage and confronts Tao in the garage with his shotgun. Tao parents find out what happened through the grapevine and they plead with Walt to allow their son to work for him to pay off his debt.

One night, Tao's vicious gangster cousin stops by with his loser friends. They want Tao to come with them and they want Tao to attempt to steal the car again. The family comes out and fights for Tao. The struggle ensues and moves into Walt's front lawn. Walt confronts the melee and points his shotgun at the gang members and tells them, in his insulting but humorous way to bug off.

Later on in the movie, the gang drives by and sprays the house with automatic gunfire. They also beat and rape Tao's sister. The young priest who is persistent, young, and somewhat annoying, but has divine and holy intentions, finally is able to speak to Walt and persuade him into confession. The viewer is waiting for Walt to seek revenge and Tao wants to go over to his cousin's home and shoot them. Walt does not want Tao to get hurt and knows this type of retaliation could be a trap. I was hoping that Walt would shoot these gang members one or two at a time over the course of several days. That would fit with the movie and his character. The ending is somewhat surprising in that he offers himself to the gang at night. He does not have a weapon with him, but tricks the gang in murdering him in front of the neighbors who see everthing and it is obvious since the gunfire all comes from one house. It is a shut down case, not allot of sympathy.

Before this occurs, Walt attends long awaited confession, has a fruitful but short conversation with one of his sons, gives his dog to his neighbors, and writes a will that gives the mint condition Torino to Tao and not his son's trashy and brain dead daughter.

The movie has some funny scenes, music is almost nonexistent, and the drama is nothing that is close to riveting. But the movie is realistic and believable. There is some suspense at the end but it is short lived.

Why did Eastwood want to direct and make this movie? Perhaps he wanted to give some people some screen time that would otherwise never have a shot. It could be to show the Hmong people to the country. He also could have been waiting to just make a movie is undoubtably credible.

I allocate this movie two stars.**

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