Saturday, 28 February 2009

Gran Torino

Dirty Harry lives again in the form of Walt Kowalski, a cantankerous 70-something veteran and recent widower, obstinately hanging on to his American dream (best before 1960) in a dilapidated suburb.

He divides his time between mowing the lawn, seeing off gangs with his army-issue M1 Garand (plus an apparently endless supply of unfashionable racial epithets: gooks, slopes, spooks, zipper heads…to name but a few) and getting to know his Hmong neighbours, who gradually begin to show him the error of his xenophobic ways and melt his hate-hardened heart. A little bit.

Although there’s an inter-community-bridge-building vibe going on, the film's main concern is how Walt copes with his feelings of loss and guilt (from killing so many people in the Korean War). And “copes” is the operative word; this is a redemption tale up to a point, beyond that it’s all about a man doing the best he can with the life he has. Eastwood’s libertarian credentials shine through.

But all of this is academic; the most striking thing about the film is its propensity for intense mood swings. One minute Clint’s spoofing (I think) his tough guy image by administering arthritic OAP beatdowns, and in the next a bunch of gangbangers are putting out a cigarette in a kid’s face.

The inconsistency of tone is deeply confusing, and you may find yourself laughing at both these sequences. I did, and I wasn’t alone; going by sheer volume of audience response, this is easily the funniest vigilante film ever made. In fact, I have no compunction in declaring Gran Torino a full-blown Laugh Riot, and on that basis I whole-heartedly recommend it.

1 comment:

Mauricio said...

Unforgiven is one of those many movies that I remember as 'good' but can't actually at all remember. I'm guessing it's because of that contentless yet qualified memory that I had been holding the idea of Clint Eastwood being a good, reliable (and by this i mean worth £7 + 2hours) director. Maybe it was also The Bridges of Madison County.
On this basis I have gone to see a few of his more recent things, each time with clearly bad results but not bad enough to over-ride the above-mentioned reputation. The last of these (and this I had promised) was the disastrously senile Changeling.

I may follow your approach of watching as comedy. This may justify at least the effort to stream them.