Sunday, February 1, 2009

Gran Torino

If there was one thing I learned while watching Clint Eastwood's amateurish racial drama, it was that he couldn't sing. The song that concludes this film, written he, his son, and a couple others is caterwauled by Dirty Harry himself. Eastwood made some fantastic films this decade ("Million-Dollar Baby," "Letters From Iwo Jima"). Here Clint doesn't achieve much. He gives an okay performance, but he's the only one who gets a good performance milked out. Eastwood seems to have lost his direction skills. Plus, where is Paul Haggis when we need him? Why did Eastwood work with the terribly written, profanity heavy script from Nick Schenk? Who knows. All I know is that Eastwood overplays the racism. He is Walt Kowalski, a man who's heavily shaken from his time spent in the Korean War. He is a racist, but I doubt that's a secret. At the beginning of the film, at his wife's funeral, we also realize he is a blatant jerk. He is the most anti-social guy you can imagine. I give the Academy a rare pat on the back for not celebrating Eastwood cussing his way through nearly two hours of a film. We also meet in the opening minutes the priest, Father Janovich (Christopher Carley, in a very terribly acted performance). He wants Walt to confess. Whaddya think Eastwood says to that? The film also is not spared of terribly two-dimensional characters. Walt's family is a cast of paper-thin portrayals by actors who are unlucky enough to have signed on to such a film. We also meet Walt's neighbors, a Hmong family who he obviously holds in contempt for just being Asian. Of course, these are the people who soften his heart. Especially pressured young man Thao (Bee Vang), who, under pressure from his cousin's gang, tries to steal Walt's prized Gran Torino. He then works, by his family's command, for Walt, who somewhat takes him under his wing. The plot has a lot of potential, but it is subjected to Eastwood's hammy directing. There are some good characters, like Sue, played by promising actress Ahney Her. But the film submits to ridiculousness. Walt's barber, played by John Carroll Lynch (who played Norm Gunderson), has a terribly executed scene. There are moments intended to be funny. Schenk thinks these are good moments, but they are seriously duds. Nothing works really, but yet there is still some sort of underlying charm from Eastwood and Her. This is what saves the film from being a terrible bust. But still, you can't really ignore that there are a score of problems here. C-

This film is very, very profane and violent. Not for children.

1 comment:

aspergiansarah said...

Well... the priest had a terribly one-note performance, but I'm thinking maybe that was the writing.

His role was basically to stand by and tell Clint he highly disreccommended the ending plan, while Clint ignores him.

But the priest seems to know he's fighting a losing battle, and he can't beat the script.

So... that was a pretty one-dimesional role, so maybe Christopher Carley shouldn't be held to blame.

All in all I liked the movie, I think. Clint's growls and streams of epithets got tiresome at times, though, didn't they?