HomePosts Tagged "gran torino"

gran torino Tag

With Red about to hit theaters this weekend, I thought I’d take a look at a few other notable older movie characters who happen to be badasses. I decided to limit this list to humans only, so sorry there’s no Yoda here. But there is a Jedi.

Harry Doyle and Archie Long from Tough Guys (1986, Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas). “Well, what do you want to do now, Archie? Steal another empty armored truck? Maybe start a collection?” The ’80s version of Red was this pairing of Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster as two old criminals released from prison for hijacking a train and now have to adjust to modern day lifestyle after being locked up for 30 years. Meanwhile Eli Wallach plays a hit man with an old contract out on them, but he is damn near blind and can barely see his quarry.

Badassitude Level: They hijack the same train they got arrested for and continue driving it even when they run out of tracks.

Gran Torino (2009, Warner Bros.)
purchase from Amazon: DVD | Blu-ray

I enjoy a nice Unforgiven viewing as much as the next guy, but I’ve never really bought into the whole cult of Clint — for movies that are supposed to disassemble and analyze the various aspects of American manhood, Eastwood’s films often strike me as curiously dull. During A Perfect World, for instance — a movie I went to see knowing full well that Kevin Costner was Eastwood’s co-star, and hoping two negatives would produce a positive — I’m fairly certain I had an out of body experience, during which my spirit floated to the ceiling of the nearly empty theater and took a long nap. I went into Gran Torino, in other words, expecting very little; I certainly didn’t plan to feel a bitter swell of nostalgia as the closing credits rolled. But life is full of surprises, and as it turns out, Clint — and by extension Gran Torino — has a few too.

Billed in advance as a sort of unofficial sequel to the Dirty Harry movies, Torino stars Eastwood as Walt Kowalski, a retired auto worker who, as the movie opens, is in attendance at his wife’s funeral. It quickly becomes clear that aside from his dearly departed better half, Walt wants very little to do with anyone — not his kids, nor their kids, nor the young, well-meaning priest that reluctantly promised Walt’s wife he’d look after him. And certainly not the families on his street, which no longer have familiar Polish surnames; Walt’s neighborhood has changed, with an influx of Hmong immigrants replacing the solidly Caucasian blue-collar demographic with which he identifies. He’s a grumpy, openly racist old man, but Nick Schenk’s screenplay does a better job of generating empathy for the character than you might think; surrounded by clueless kids, grasping grandchildren, and neighbors who seem to have no pride in their homes, Walt comes across at first as a sort of seething, epithet-spouting version of Dick Loudon, the character Bob Newhart played on Newhart, a guy who feels like the last oasis of sanity in a world gone mad.

noconcessionsClint Eastwood is having the last sneer on the Oscars. As three of the five best picture nominees struggle for a box office bounce (and one, The Reader, has become a laughingstock, the poster child for questionable taste among led-by-the-nose Academy Award voters) his latest, and presumably last as an actor, Gran Torino, is pulling up at the $100 million mark and will easily outperform the others. It’s the only one of the highly touted December releases still drawing crowds in a January that has gone to the (Hotel for) Dogs and bear-hugged Paul Blart: Mall Cop. Critics mostly adore it, as they have just about every Eastwood picture since the long-time pariah was welcomed into the church of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences with 1992’s Unforgiven.

“‘Deserve’s’ got nothin’ to do with it,” his death-haunted old gunslinger muttered over Gene Hackman as he sent him to that great prairie in the sky, and the Academy loved him for it when at the end we were left with a “statement” on the futility of violence, and not a celebration of its consummation. I wasn’t convinced. On first viewing, the film felt very studied to me, wearing its closing dedication “to Sergio and Don” (which had the auteurist critics swooning) on its sleeve. The message was decidedly mixed: After two hours of expressively photographed moping around the Old West, it was those final gunblasts, a typical Eastwood holocaust, which woke everyone up. The adrenaline rush, combined with the arthouse pretension that crept up like ivy around the foundation of a standard-issue oater, awed the tastemakers into submission. The guy who had his day made dozens of times over in the five Dirty Harry pictures, who dispatched armies of desperados at a Gatling gun clip throughout assorted prior Westerns, who killed 300 Nazis in Where Eagles Dare, who had a warmer and more intimate relationship with his simian rather than female companion in Every Which Way But Loose and Any Which Way You Can—he had grown up, become part of the pat-on-the-back Hollywood humanists club. It was as if a mangy, flea-eating gorilla had clambered to its feet and become a man, stunning the zookeepers.

Gran Torino finally opened to wide release this weekend, and rapidly earned the number one spot at the box office.

It deserves every single dollar it’s made.

Many have been calling it a type of Dirty Harry film, harking back to the old days when director/star Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby, Changeling) ran around as Callahan, asking punks if they felt lucky before blowing a hole in them with his .44 Magnum. Indeed, the trailers make it seem as if Gran Torino is a last hurrah action film for Eastwood, before he takes his final bow somewhere down the line.

The truth is, Gran Torino is not an action film by any true meaning of the word. Yes, there is action in it, but it’s action not just for the sake of showing some blood and violence; it’s organically grown from the storyline, from the result of consequences brought about by the acts and doings of the characters within the film. In short, Gran Torino is a character piece about an irascible Korean War vet who also happens to be an unrepentant bigot, who doesn’t exactly learn the error of his ways, but learns that some people he hates are better than others, and chooses–just as he did in the war–to stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves.

It’s an impressive and important thing that Gran Torino is an Eastwood starrer. In many ways, it has to be: the thought of a 78 year-old man going head-on against youthful gang members would be laughable had any other actor played the lead…but because it’s Eastwood, the man who virtually invented scowling, whose fed-up cop Callahan beat the path for all other “loose cannon” cops to follow in his footsteps… the suspension of disbelief necessary to invest in the film not only clicks on automatically, it’s maintained throughout the film without one instance of being lost. Eastwood’s steely gaze, the simmering quiver in his jaw and a patented growl that might very well have belonged to Wolverine’s father, provides much of the dramatic forewarning and humor–yes, there is well-placed humor to be found–for the majority of the picture.