Grand Torino

September 13, 2010 at 6:40 am | Posted in DVD Review | Leave a comment
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Having seen Harry Brown, which is sometime pitched as a ‘UK Grand Torino’, I got hold of Gran Torino on DVD.

A surprising watchable, subtle movie. Clint Eastwood has spent lifetime perfecting the tough-been-to-hell-and-back character; and he doesn’t disappoint. What is different is that when he was younger, he took you to hell too. In this role he doesn’t. Eastwood’s character – Walt Kowalski – despite being in his 70’s is still capable of a fierce turn; he is older, wiser, and still able to get the better a ‘young punks’. But Walt doesn’t dominate the film through a series of shootouts and fight scenes – Walt’s too old for that. It would not be believable.

Instead, we see Walt grow closer towards the Hmong refugees that live on his street. In the words of his old neighbour, He is “the last American” on the street. What neither realises – till perhaps the end – is that both of them live in a country that does not exist anymore. Walt’s America – where men were men of their word, and foreigners were non-white, where a man’s quiet actions spoke for him, where American industry was the best – probably never existed and certainly cease to exist after the Vietnam War. The Hmong refugees as also cast adrift – their country and way of life is gone forever, cast down by choosing the wrong ally in the wrong war.

At first Walt can’t stand his neighbour’s son, who he calls Toad – Thao – played by Bee Vang. First in a derogatory way, then as a label of affection. Thao is in danger of being swept up into the Hmong street gang that dominates the neighbourhood – maybe to keep out the other ethnically based gangs.

It is through Thao’s sister – Sue, played by Ahney Her – that Walt gets to know his neighbours – that and great Hmong cooking. Sue stands up to Walt, but still treats him with respect.

Eventually Walt takes Thoa under his wing and tries to teach him to be a man American style. Walt buys Thao his first tool belt so that he can get a job on a construction site – Walt vouches for him to the supervisor.

The final 20 minutes is of a brave man making peace with himself before going off to solve an intractible problem. It breaks Eastwood’s tradition method for solving problems – because it would ruin the movie. Eastwood instead chooses a different option.

If you saw Harry Brown you should see this film.

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