Go ahead… take the Gran Torino, punk

I’ve heard lots of chatter about Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino.  Now that I’ve seen it for meself on Canada Day, I see why.  Fantasticfreakintastic movie.

Most of us probably knew where the movie was going.  Old racist krank suddenly warms up to a family of Hmong… eventually becoming the best of friends, albeit unwillingly, and many racist remarks later.  The thing writes itself, though the ending is a bit surprising.

However, I think the movie carries itself off with a lot of panache.  The Hmong actors do a fantastic job, including Bee Vang, who scored his first acting role in this particular gig as the young “Toad.”

But it’s Clint Eastwood chanelling his inner Dirty Harry that makes this movie a absolute gem. Eastwood may be soon 80, but he is still as tough as ever with just the right touch of vulnerability to make his character likeable.  Reminds me a lot of Gregory House… an asshole, but enough humanity to make him a sympathetic character.  And likeable assholes go back to Milton’s devil in Paradise Lost… we just can’t resist the fallen.

I like that Eastwood plays off his tough guy image in Gran Torino and makes it work.  I’m not sure if it’s his cold blue stare or that deep gravelly voice that could ask “Pass the salt” and still make someone quake in their shoes.

Yet, Eastwood mitigates this tough guy image with a deft wit that we see in movies like Every Which Way But Loose. That wit comes out here, and even though the Hmong and others are at the wrong end of that wit most of the time, Walt Kowalski is a funny man in a dry, biting way.

Gran Torino is a movie full of characters you hate and love.  And it explores territory Hollywood traditionally ignores like racism against people originating from countries in Asia… as well as the concerns of seniors in the Western World: loneliness, health decline, loss of a spouse, and the difficulties between them and their adult children.

Do yourself a favour and watch Eastwood in action again… I’m sure there won’t be many more offerings from this classic tough guy.

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