Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Racism is so funny

Can you ever go wrong with a Clint Eastwood movie?

I thought so.

With this in mind, I went to see Gran Torino and I was pleasantly surprised. A movie about a grizzled, racist old man who still lives in his old neighborhood that has seen white flight and an Asian invasion is one of the funniest I've seen in a while.

Should I feel bad that I laughed as Eastwood's character called his neighbors every Asian slur in the book? Maybe. But the neighbors gave back just as good and the back-and-forth is classic, even if it's just a cold look or an Eastwood growl. It's your typical fish-out-of-water comedic setting, except this move goes much deeper. The poor guy is so out of his element, but he'll still kick your ass if you give him any guff.

Eastwood's character, Walt Kowalski, is your typical gruff old man who grew up in the World War II/Korea generation and still lives in that time. I grew up with many men like him, they just weren't quite this racist. The beautiful thing about Walt is you learn to love the guy, especially considering his spoiled rotten grandchildren and his two yuppie sons.

Kowalski takes a sheepish, young Hmong teen under his wings and turns him into a man, giving the movie it's soul as the grizzled vet finds more in common with the new neighbors and their work ethic and respect than his own materialistic family.

But it all comes back to the black comedy. He's so over-the-top with his insults I just couldn't help but laugh. He reminded me of some uncles and other Greatest Generation types I saw at family gatherings with their gruff and always lovable distaste of current society.

I don't want to spoil the ending, but it was perfect. And I got something in my eye ...

I don't feel like writing a deep, Ebert-type review of the film, as you can tell. It just hit me in a way few movies have. Besides some sub-par acting on the part of the younger kids, it's pretty flawless.

Four stars.


  1. I give this movie four Clint Eastwood growls.

  2. "Ever notice how you come across somebody once in a while you shouldn't have messed with? That's me."

    Emily and I saw it last night. I found it slightly dissapointing. Eastwood was excellent but I thought it was a bit predictable. Also I thought most of the dialogue involving any character younger than 78 was pretty weak.

  3. I forgot to mention. Emily cried.

  4. Haven't seen it, but your review makes me want to give it 22 Stars of David.