January 11, 2009
Campbell CA — Camera 7
English / Hmong
116 Minutes — January 9, 2009
Crime / Drama / Thriller
Clint Eastwood [Per Qualche Dollaro In Piu; Il Buono, Il Brutto, Il Cattivo; Play Misty For Me; Dirty Harry; High Plains Drifter; Magnum Force; Thunderbolt and Lightfoot; The Eiger Sanction; The Outlaw Josey Wales; The Enforcer; The Gauntlet; Every Which Way But Loose; Escape From Alcatraz; Bronco Billy; Firefox; Sudden Impact; Heartbreak Ridge; Bird; The Dead Pool; Pink Cadillac; White Hunter Black Heart; The Rookie; Unforgiven; In The Line Of Fire; A Perfect World; The Bridges Of Madison County; Absolute Power; Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil; Mystic River; Million Dollar Baby; Flags Of Our Fathers; Letters From Iwo Jima; Changeling]
MichaelVox Twitter Review in 160:
Gran Torino (08 Eastwood C) Clint as Catskills comic–A Don Rickles Capt. Amer–inhabited by stereotypes, not characters–Get Off My Lawn!
I’ve listed all 33 movies that I’ve seen where Clint Eastwood appeared as an actor or as director. That is a lot of baggage and Hollywood history to overcome when you need to take on a new film role. Which is the fatal flaw of GRAN TORINO. We’ve seen Mr. Eastwood for too many years. While watching GRAN TORINO, it borders on the impossible to “forget” Dirty Harry or The Man With No Name, or more specifically for this story, the hot-headed drill sergeant he played in Heartbreak Ridge.
Eastwood plays a grumpy widower who has just buried his wife and is now free to complain about how his Michigan neighborhood and the country at large has changed for the worse. We are hit over the head with this belief of his when, at the very funeral itself, the first scene, one of his grandkids shows up in a Lions jersey and another in a belly shirt, navel ring glinting. Then we see a woman in the back text someone something. At this point, it’s okay to agree with him. We really have become a nation of ugly Americans. But that agreement will end shortly. Eastwood will turn into a jokester Archie Bunker–one who carries a gun and uses language that Television doesn’t allow.
His next-door-neighbors are Hmong. Grandma, mother, daughter, and weak teenage son. We know that every time we hear Eastwood use another all-asians-are-the-same racist remark, he’ll make up for it at the end by respecting and helping and realizing that the world is one great big melting pot. Or something. There are the scenes where he is indoctrinated into the customs of the Hmong; where he tells his drinking buddy the one about the jew, the mexican, and the colored fellow who walk into a bar (punchline: The bartender says “get the hell out of my bar”); where he will flashback to his days during the Korean War, where he’ll have a racist-off with his buddy the barber. Many of these scenes work. None of these scenes are unique or surprising.
The first hour of the film is like watching Eastwood the Catskills comedian. He even narrates his own life. “Why does that grandma hate me so much?” he says to his trusty golden retriever. Eastwood is playing a stereotype, not a character. And unfortunately, so do the other characters. We have the wigger, the three tough black guys, the sassy asian girl, the Hmong gang who sound like they’ve listened to too much T.I., the veterans, the construction supervisor, the shaman, the catholic priest who even has red hair, the money-grubbing daughter-in-law, the selfish grandkids. Everyone who comes on screen is playing a genre, not a person.
But can I say something here? The crowd I was with loved it. They wanted to hear Eastwood say “Get Off My Lawn!” while holding a rifle. They wanted to see him squint and say with his gravely 79-year-old voice “I’m the guy you don’t want to f**k with.” They laughed when he called his neighbors zipperheads and slopes, his barber a dago half-jew, and the young man next-door a pussy. He was like Don Rickles trying to be Captain America. It didn’t work. Eastwood is supposed to be so taken with the son-next-door that he teaches him a trade, gets him a job, protects his honor and even gets him a date. And this was after the boy tried to steal his beloved car.
I’m under the impression that the Hmong cast was non-professional and while it made it a bit more realistic, it also made the film a bit harder to decipher. With Eastwood grumbling and the Hmong speaking too quickly and with inconsistent accents, I’m not entirely sure about half of the dialogue. Sometimes you want realism and sometimes you want people to be able to act. I wanted actors this time. The ending is exactly what you’d expect, but what will stay with you is the dumbed-down script. Way overrated.
GRAN TORINOTags: 7.2, Clint Eastwood, Crime, Drama, Thriller