“Get off my lawn!”
It may not be the new “Go ahead, make my day!” but it definitely means something exciting. Clint is back, baby! And I’m not talking about the
director, who has become synonymous with emotionally charged Oscar-bait drama, but the badass movie star who grumbles and growls and
Well, there might not be so much gun slinging in ‘Gran Torino,’ but this is a quintessentially Eastwood performance, and it’s the reason why
the film is worth seeing.
Eastwood plays Walt Kowalski, a crusty old Korean War vet who can’t stand his own family, whips out his gun collection at the drop of a hat
ands spouts racial slurs without any discretion.
In fact, it’s hard to believe that many besides Eastwood could get away with this amount of blatant racist statements in a time when
Hollywood is so politically correct that you would almost expect someone to be blacklisted for it.
But “Gran Torino” doesn’t offend because it’s an equal opportunity offender, and it’s that sense of humor that really makes the film work.
Sure, there is a very nice bond that forms between Kowalski and his teenage Hmong neighbors, and it definitely gives the film a heart, but
even that is still heavily dependent on Eastwood’s quips to distract from the sometimes suspect performances on the other side of the
fence. Except for the grandmother, of course, who’s a very formidable spitter.
“Gran Torino” is one of those films that is so over-the-top with its dialog and performances (particularly Eastwood), that one almost
wonders if it isn’t drifting into the unintentionally funny range at times. But for the most part I don’t think that’s the case. Except for the
utterly bizarre closing tune, sung by Eastwood himself. It’s weird.
Perhaps more notable is the film relatively relaxed editing that makes a 116 minute film seem a bit longer, and a climax that works, but
maybe goes a bit too dark to gel with what has come before it.
Still, there is nothing here that falls truly flat, and the film has just enough heart and more than enough dark humor to recommend. It might
not be a top entry in the Eastwood legacy, but it’s certainly quality entertainment and a good film in its own right.
* * *
(out of four)
Directed by: Clint Eastwood
Written by: Nick Schenk
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Christopher Carley, Bee Vang,
Cinematography by: Tom Stern
Music by: Kyle Eastwood and Michael Stevens
Released: December 12, 2008; 116 Minutes