Thursday, March 5, 2009

Gran Torino has been called the "Get off my lawn" movie by some (I don't have specific examples, but I bet someone somewhere called it that) and it's true Clint Eastwood, as Walt Kowalski, does say that exact line more than once.  But while Eastwood does play the crotchety old man with a bad attitude, the movie is about so much more than that.  The truth is Gran Torino is about redemption and change.  The movie asks the question "What does it take for a man, especially an old man set in his ways, to change? " And the answer is not necessarily the one you are expecting.

The movie opens with the funeral of Walt's wife.  We quickly learn that Walt is a short tempered man who doesn't take guff from anyone.  His two sons and their families can't stand him and can't wait to get away from him.  The local minister can't get Walt to talk to him (per Ms. Kowalski's wishes) unless he wants a mean word and a quip about his age.  And the fact that Walt's entire neighborhood has been slowly filling up with oriental immigrants doesn't make him any happier. Walt's new neighbors, which he refers to in very derogatory names, don't take care of their property and so the neighborhood has become a mess.  And it doesn't help matters that Walt fought in the Korean War, from which he brought back many prejudices.

When an altercation erupts between the neighbor boy, Thao and his cousin who wants him to join his gang Walt gets upset.  Not because the gang is messing with his neighbors, but because the lot of them are on his lawn.  So Walt pulls a shotgun and kicks them all off his lawn.  Soon the entire neighborhood is bringing Walt food and plants and looking at him as a hero, something he desperately wants to avoid.

But since I already told you the movie was about change you can probably guess what happens next, slowly Walt begins to care for his neighbors and appreciating their culture.  He slowly forms a special bound with Thao and his sister Sue, taking them on almost as surrogates to his own grandchildren.  He helps Thao get a job, a date, and become more of a man.

At the same time things with the gangs have begun to escalate.  First, Thao is robbed and beaten up, so Walt puts a good old fashion whuppin' on their biggest member.  But as the violence escalates those near Walt gets hurt and he knows he has to finish it before anyone else can get hurt.  

I have to admit I avoided this movie for awhile, because while it looked good, it also looked like your typical drama, which can sometimes be tedious to watch.  But not only is Gran Torino not tedious, it's pretty hilarious.  The movie is one of the most genuinely funny movies I've seen in a long time.  Who knew Eastwood was such a comedian.  I throughly enjoyed this movie, and really think it's probably one of the better films to be released in 2008.

So what does it take for a man to change?  You'll have to ask yourself that after seeing the film.

Posted via email from the_cinemaniac's posterous


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