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Posted on 1/11/09 06:30 AM
WARNING! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS ABOUT THE MOVIE GRAN TORINO! IF YOU DON'T WANT KEY PARTS OF THE FILM SPOILED YOU SHOULD STOP READING THIS REVIEW NOW! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!!!!
There are moments in one's life, specific moments, that will echo over and over again as one goes through their life. Several years ago I was a pall bearer at my Grandmother on my Father's side's funeral. There was this moment when all the pall bearers were standing over her coffin as it was on this deal holding it over the dug out hole that would be her grave. While the Priest was talking I remember staring into that hole. It had a menacing yet enticing quality to it. As if death was looking at me in the eyes and saying even you, all of you, will nestle in my 6 foot deep bed one day. It was the most powerful moment of the whole funeral for me and something that has never left me, echoing here and there on occasion due to certain situations since then.
Watching Clint Eastwood's new film Gran Torino one of those echoes occured. There is a scene where Walt, Eastwood's character, goes over to the house of these gangster kids and beats up one of them severely and threatens them while holding a gun to the kid's face. I kept staring into the barrell of the gun, into the blackness of it. It was a film but it was the same menacing death staring at me from my Grandmother's grave.
Gran Torino is a haunting movie though and the fact that something, pretty much anything, from one's life either due to regret or what have you might reverberate from watching this film is almost inevitable. There are moments, situations, built up in this movie that deliver with such dramatic punch it can leave you with your jaw open muttering "Holy BLEEP" in stunned whispers repeatedly.
Clint Eastwood is GREAT in this film. He may be just playing Dirty Harry V.3 or 4 mind you, but in the context of this film it is exactly what is needed and he delivers a smashing homerun in this film. The man deserves all the accollades he is getting. One actor who deserves huge praise but is getting none is Ahney Her. She plays Sue, the older sister of Thao. She is FANTASTIC in this movie and the fact that there is not a single mention of her deserving awards of some sort is almost criminal in my opinion.
Both Walt (Eastwood) and Sue (Her) have the hardest hitting dramatic moments in the film. Their storyline and conflicts are built up so well that when their dramatic climaxes come they deliver with the force of a wrecking ball to the gut! When Sue comes home brutalized and raped, it turned my guts inside out. It was as if someone I knew, or a family member, had just been assaulted in this manner. It felt REAL and after the movie my lady and me were talking about it as if it was something REAL that had happened and it was bothering us as if something REAL that had happened in our world. This is due to how attached you become to Sue through the movie and because it puts an idea out there most of us never think of: Sometimes the things we do can end up costing others very dearly in ways we can not see until it is too late.
And then there's Walt's death. He provokes the gangsters to gun him down while he's unarmed in full witness of a neighborhood. That dropped my jaw open. I literally sat there with my mouth open for almost 10 or 12 seconds and then I began to whisper "Holy BEEP* several times. I could not believe it. I was stunned as if struck by a tree. You don't expect a tree to rear back and smack you, I didn't expect his character to die like he does. There are some logic holes to his "plan" for what his murder is suppose to accomplish but that aside his murder has such dramatic punch I couldn't shake it off for a very long time. I think I'm still shaking some of it off.
Those are two good examples of the power and benefit of building up characters in a film. Often alot of movies just present people, just sort of say they are the lead and this is the lead's love interest or family or etc. and throw them in situations that are suppose to automatically draw sympathy and empathy from you. But it's when you build those characters up, define them, give them more flesh, that's when the payoffs happen and when the audience becomes ATTACHED to those characters so those payoffs MEAN something and stay with you.
Now I'm not going to say that this movie has no faults. It does have some faults. Some things are just TOO simple in this movie. On the one hand it makes the main dramatic characters and threads have more weight because they don't have as much to compete with. But on the other hand some of it was just too simple and too obvious it made the film seem not quite whole in terms of quality. Like important parts of it are completed to the tilt while others are just enough to pass by.
One big problem was the characters of Thao and the Priest. Thao is one of the least likeable sidekick, secondary type characters in a while. He isn't a scumball or anything like that, but he is just sort of there. Maybe that's what he's suppose to be, just a kid with no strong personality who gets dominated by anyone or anything but that doesn't inspire much sympathy or love for the character. And the actor just sort of did nothing when he's suppose to show he has no personality, smiled and did nothing to show he's becoming a "man" or show faux anger and rage that wasn't believable for anything. The Priest doesn't fare much better. He doesn't seem to give a damn about anything really, he just kind of shows up and reads his lines with the interest and dramatic flare of one's wall. I'm Catholic, I know how priests talk to people and how they show concern, some of it is universal, some of it isn't, but they don't come off as just saying stuff because it's an acting gig and these are just lines to dead pan to the camera. Think of how effective these two characters could've been if they had been handled better both script and acting wise.
There is one other problem and that is the song at the end of the movie. Something about Thao driving the Gran Torino with Walt's dog and Clint Eastwood's singing voice in the background like kills all the drama that had gone on. Suddenly you are bad/funny laughing and it's not a film that should end with a bad/funny moment!
But if feels silly to complain about anything in this movie. The stuff that matters and the stuff that deliver, deliver BIG and are still haunting me now as I write this. Stuff that echoes from moments in one's life that they see reflected in perhaps abstract ways in this film. Really good film that everyone should see and people should start petitioning for Ahney Her to get some recognition from this film!