Wednesday, December 24, 2008

GRAN TORINO: A Mixed Bag of Goodies

Clint Eastwood's latest directing/acting effort GRAN TORINO is a mishmash of sitcom humor and emotionally charged drama. Eastwood plays Walt Kowalski, a disgruntled Korean War veteran who, after his wife's death, finds himself living alone in a Detroit neighborhood that has been slowly taken over by Hmong** immigrants. A bitter and bigoted old man who never really connected with his own sons, Kowalski suddenly finds himself mentoring a young Hmong neighbor but ends up learning more about life and relationships himself.

In possibly one of Eastwood's funniest screen portrayal, Kowalski is what you would imagine Dirty Harry would grow old to be -- constantly wearing a grimace, snarling all over the place and quick to point a finger gun at people. Ethnic slurs and racial epithets probably make up for 50% of his dialogues but he does them in a fun way. I'm asian and I was definitely not offended by them. I never laughed so hard watching a drama before. But when the film does get serious, the themes of religious faith, racism, regret, and redemption clearly surface. This is the film that SEVEN POUNDS so desperately wants to be.

Honestly, GRAN TORINO is a very flawed movie suffering from an almost mediocre script and poor acting from its supporting characters across the board, especially those playing the Hmong roles. But I LOVED it! I came to the screening not knowing much about the film and I was pleasantly surprised. It has a lot of heart and I was totally sold on it. Eastwood is so endearing so I won't be surprised if he (and the film) becomes the dark horse in the Academy Awards come February. The "Gran Torino" theme song by Eastwood himself is also my favorite this year.

I'm probably most excited about people's reaction to this film than any other. So let me know what your thoughts are.

**Hmong is an Asian ethnic group in the mountainous regions of Southeast Asia that includes Northern Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, and Myanmar (Burma).
~Michael Gamilla
This film comes to Rochester in January 2009.

1 comment:

radioman said...

Well, Michael,here's your first comment. I was able to see a preview screening last night (it comes out this weekend) and LOVED IT too! (so did the friend who accompanied me.)

Your review is excellent, and hits the nail on the head all the way through. I have seen COMEDIES that I didn't laugh as hard during, as I did this rather deadly-serious film.

Clint Eastwood is superb in his bitter, all-American, angry-man role. The racial slurs fly throughout the movie, but I know two Asians who have seen it, one being Michael, and neither were necessarily offended, although they certainly had every right to be. The movie is entertaining and well edited throughout, and I will be recommending it to my friends.
Another in a decent list of quality movies for late 2008! Can't wait for the Academy Awards!