Title: Gran Torino
Time/Place: 4:30 showing at Ocean Ranch (thanks, Tex)
Lately, Clint Eastwood movies have been of a certain type – depressing. They are always GOOD, but by the end I’m wondering WHY I just watched that. Changeling, Mystic River and Million Dollar Baby are all so gosh darned unhappy, and end without any hope, that when I first heard about Gran Torino I figured it’d be the same. After understanding what the story was, however, and having the ending ruined for me, I thought this might be a movie that has a little more purpose to it than running my emotions through the ringer. Last night, I found my theory to be correct.
Gran Torino was full of surprises for me. The first thing I noticed was that it was hilarious! Yep, a movie about a grizzled war veteran, gangs, racism, and more is freaking hilarious. Clint Eastwood’s character, Mr. Kowalski (I wouldn’t dare call him Walt), reminded me of Daffy Duck – albeit a very vulgar one – with his constant asides and grumblings. I half-expected him at any point to growl, “Of course, you know, this means war.” Honestly, though, the light moments endear us to Eastwood’s character – not an easy task considering his points of view and personality. What really sets this movie apart from the other Eastwood directed movies I mentioned above, is growth.
In each of those other pictures, the main characters either remain basically the same, or if there is death to conclude the story, it’s generally without any point. They are very realistic stories, and they are wonderfully told, but by golly why? This time I didn’t walk away asking why, and that was the second thing that really surprised me. With Gran Torino I knew EXACTLY what the point was in watching the movie. We see characters arc, there is resolution, and when it comes down to it – it’s just a good movie. The fact that I knew the ending was pretty irrelevant, because part way through the movie, it’s pretty evident as to what will happen. It didn’t take a single thing away from my viewing though, and in actuality, the full impact of the ending was much stronger than what I imagined it would be. This isn’t a perfect movie, though.
Gran Torino has a couple of issues – also slightly surprising. First, there were quite a few bad cuts. I usually just watch movies as an audience member, instead of analyzing every angle and edit, but these edits were poor enough to jar me out of the moment for a bit. I’m not even sure regular folk will notice, but it was enough for me to mention it here. Second, overall, the story is fairly predictable. This isn’t much of a complaint, because the best stories usually ARE predictable in some way – and Gran Torino definitely adds a lot of variety to the situations, and there is always something unexpected that pops up. So, again, it’s a minor issue. Finally, there were a couple of awkward performance moments. The one that sticks out to me the most involves Eastwood’s Mr. Kowalski smashing cabinets in anger with his fists. It felt really strange to me – not the emotion, but the precise way in which he punched each one. These complaints are but a teaspoon in an Olympic pool of goodness, so don’t pay too much attention. I’m only being complete in my review.
Gran Torino made me laugh, it made me cry, it did everything. I enjoyed the devil out of this movie, and I whole-heartedly recommend it. I enjoyed the time I spent with this old man: seeing him cope with his life, understanding him, and watching him grow as a person. If Eastwood keeps this trend up… I’m going to have to become a fan! 😉