Monday, March 02, 2009

Gran Torino: a Brief Review

In Gran Torino, Walter Kowalski (Clint Eastwood) is a bitter old man, haunted by past actions, whose life is going downhill. His wife has just died. His own health is declining. He has children and grandchildren whose attitude toward him alternates between neglect and spite, and it is hard to blame them. He lives in a declining, gang infested neighborhood that is ethnically changing. Given his unrestrained bigotry, the changes don't suit him well.

While a bigot, Mr. Kowalski can hardly be accused of discriminating, as he hates pretty much every body. Over the course of the movie, he manages to say things offensive to Asians, Blacks, Hispanics, Italians, Poles, and Catholics. I'm sure I've left someone out.

The genius of Mr. Eastwood's performance is that he somehow manages to make this character somewhat sympathetic. As one might expect, the character manages to grow over the course of the movie, but the growth is mitigated. He never becomes someone other than who he is.

However, he does learn to care for his new Asian neighbors, who he initially hated. Mr. Kowalski is not shy about using his guns to protect himself and others in his increasingly violent neighborhood. His standing down of some gang members results in an act of brutal retaliation, and that leads to the somewhat surprising climactic scene in which the protagonist takes his opponents down.

I did not expect to like this movie, but I did.

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