David M. Brown's Blog

July 24, 2009

“Gran Torino”

Filed under: Uncategorized — davidmbrowndotcom @ 9:55 pm

A very fine movie. I disagree with the claim of some viewers that Clint Eastwood’s character, Walt, is “racist” in any important way merely because he freely bandies about ethnic epithets and stereotypes. Any racial prejudice is superficial and essentially meaningless. Consider, for example, the constant stream of insults between Walt and his barber; they obviously like each other. Nor is there any barrier of racism he has to conquer to become close to his Hmong neighbors. His isolation and defensiveness have different causes. And despite any protestations, he reponds very positively to genuine civility, gratitude and gumption.

The guy’s crusty not because he’s mean-spirited, but because he hates bull, has had to suffer too many fools too long, and carries a burden going back to his experience as a soldier in the Korean War. He doesn’t feel much inclination to be fraudulently diplomatic. Initially, for example, Walt is suspicious and contemptuous of the young (and white) priest (whom he regards as an over-educated know-nothing); but over time the priest earns his respect. Walt wishes he could connect to his sons better, but they and their families are repeatedly shown to be presumptuous, condescending, and offensive.

Gran Torino” is a wonderful and in fact perfectly wrought movie about a courageous man who does what he has to do to protect people he has come to care about—not only from being subjected to violence but from having to commit violence. Every scene is fresh and vital. Nor is the ending “preprogrammed” or “predictable,” as Ebert claims. The only predictable bit in the whole film is the gift of the Gran Tarino. By that point, we know that only one person could possibly be the recipient. But logical inevitability and “preprogrammed” or formulaic predictability are two different things.


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