Posted by: Dr P | February 2, 2009

Gran Torino

Gran Torino is an incredibly funny film. I don’t think many of the things I laughed at were intentional but that’s by the by. I howled, tittered, giggled and snorted numerous times.

Ok here’s the premise. Clint Eastwood plays Walt, a retired Army vet who harbours lifelong suspicion and prejudices against, well let’s be honest, practically anything. He doesn’t like foreigners, he doesn’t like kids, he particularly doesn’t like people standing on his incredibly manicured lawn. His life is a bit of a mess; as the film opens we are at his wife’s funeral, and practically every person who enters the church incurs his immediate disapproval, whether through what they’re wearing, how they look or even just if they breathe in the wrong direction.

Eastwood has “grumpy old man” off to a tee. He actually makes this noise that sounds like half a “grrr” and half an intake of breath. This is the main source of comedy in the movie for me. You just want to keep hearing him grunt and grrr. It’s brilliant. Girl enters church with belly ring showing … “Grrr”. Son enters and sits in the wrong place … “Arggggg”. Young priest talks about life and death … “Grrrrnaaaahhhh”. We speculated that the outtakes for this movie could be pant-wettingly funny. For example, Clint could substitute his grrr for random animal noises. Imagine the hilarity!!!! Girl enters church with belly ring showing … “Meeee-owww”. Son enters and sits in the wrong place … “Cluck cluck cluck”. Young priest talks about life and death … “Baaaaaaaaaa”.

OK anyway, back to the film. As if losing his wife wasn’t enough, Clint lives in a former American neighbourhood which has been gradually overrun with Asian, Hispanic and Black families and gangs – you can already imagine how much he disapproves of this. When a young South East Asian family that lives next door to him becomes embroiled in a gang war, he is less concerned initially about their welfare than about people treading on his plants. When this happens, and a couple of roses get beheaded, his reaction is pretty much identical to Somerset farmers shouting “get orrrrffff moiii larrrrnnnnddd” – but with slightly more macho hardware employed.

The young boy next door, Thao, is a quiet lad but his cousin is head of a gang, and bullies the defenceless kid into trying to steal Clint’s prize vintage car – the Gran Torino of the title. Of course this goes wrong and so the boy offers his services as penance. Despite initially wanting no part of this, eventually our grumpy hero decides to set him to all manner of jobs to clean up the neighbourhood, even going so far as to set him up with a job at the local building site with an equally grumpy Irish mate. Of course the boy gets set upon by his cousin’s gang for daring to take on a job, and this starts a spiral of events in which Clint exacts violent revenge on the gang, which in turn leads to Thao’s sister Su being raped and beaten, and so on …

The priest who carried out the funeral of Walt’s wife is also a thorn in his side. He was apparently made to promise to keep an eye on Walt by his dying wife, and so he keeps turning up to try and rationalise what is going on in the community and to stop Walt making things worse. This doesn’t work particularly well, and leads to yet more hilarious exchanges of abuse.

The film does have quite a dark tone to it, and is much moe character driven and slower paced than the trailer suggested. This is, however, no bad thing. We see Walt battling with his inner demons and also finally overcoming many of the prejudices that have haunted him his entire adult life. We also understand how the horrors of war have turned this man into a bitter, cynical and fearful character. Some of the choices he makes in the gang incidents actually lead to pretty bad things, and so he also has to struggle with that. In addition, he is also battling an illness which looks set to kill him before long. So perhaps not the happiest of films.

One thing that did make me laugh was that in addition to writing and directing, and acting, Clint also amazingly “sings” the theme tune at the end. I half sat there expecting him to have designed the costumes, done the lighting and acted as “best boy” too. If you’ve ever seen the Steve Martin tribute to Monty Python, you’ll get why I found this very very funny. If you haven’t, you’ll just think I’m crackers.

Well worth a viewing anyway. Despite the tough themes and the horrid events that occur, there’s something heartwarming about seeing Clint finally act his age and it’s a tour de force of a performance as a grumpy old man. I would love to say I might be like this myself when I’m older except I think I already am!!! As the quotes below will show, no prejudice gets left unvisited!

Memorable moments:

Walt Kowalski: Oh, I’ve got one. A Mexican, a Jew, and a colored guy go into a bar. The bartender looks up and says, “Get the fuck out of here.”

Walt Kowalski: [to Su] Get me another beer, Dragon Lady! This one’s running on empty.

Barber Martin: There. You finally look like a human being again. You shouldn’t wait so long between hair cuts, you cheap son of a bitch.
Walt Kowalski: Yeah. I’m surprised you’re still around. I was always hoping you’d die off and they got someone in here that knew what the hell they were doing. Instead, you’re just hanging around like the duop dego you are.
Barber Martin: That’ll be ten bucks, Walt.
Walt Kowalski: Ten bucks? Jesus Christ, Marty. What are you, half Jew or somethin’? You keep raising the damn prices all the time.
Barber Martin: It’s been ten bucks for the last five years, you hard-nosed Polak son of a bitch.
Walt Kowalski: Yeah, well keep the change.
Barber Martin: See you in three weeks, prick.
Walt Kowalski: Not if I see you first, dipshit.

Father Janovich: Why didn’t you call the police?
Walt Kowalski: Well you know, I prayed for them to come but nobody answered.

Ashley Kowalski: [clearly uninterested] Grandpa Walt, you want me to help you with that, the chairs?
Walt Kowalski: No, you probably just painted your nails.

Walt Kowalski: [reading aloud from the newspaper] Your birthday today, Daisy. This year you have to make a choice between two life paths. Second chances comes your way. Extraordinary events culminate in what might seem to be an anticlimax. Your lucky numbers are 84, 23, 11, 78, and 99. What a load of shit.



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