Gran Torino
We’re not identical twins.

Theatrical Release Date: 12/12/2008 (limited), 01/09/2009 (wide)
Director: Clint Eastwood
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Bee Vang, Ahney Her, Christopher Carley

Let me just get something out of the way – I really like Clint Eastwood directed films. Whether it’s the westerns he’s so well known for or the more gritty dramas like “Mystic River” or “Million Dollar Baby”, all of the components that go into filmmaking can usually be relied upon to be top notch.

Now, that’s not to say there aren’t a few missteps here and there that don’t work for me – I’m not a blind devotee. I actually can’t sit through “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”, felt “Flags of Our Fathers” was far too scattered and the recent “Changeling” suffered from having too many plot points to focus on.

So where does his latest release, “Gran Torino”, fit in? Somewhere between “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” and “Space Cowboys” I’d say. (Say all you want, it’s fun to see the nursing home set bicker and argue while they travel into space to prevent a satellite from crashing back into Earth.)

I know there’s a lot of critical acclaim being thrown Eastwood’s way with this one, and obviously the studio felt it was the right one to push for awards since they held it right until the end so as to be fresh in the minds of Academy voters. However, when I watched the film, rather than seeing this glorious, iconic Eastwood-type performance, I see a caricature.

The role he plays is that of a Korea War vet who has just lost his wife of many years. That could work. His family all hates him because he was such a hard man to get to know and he holds little more than contempt for them as they go about their lives. Okay … maybe that could work. Oh, and he’s an unabashed super bigot – mad about all of the foreigners and minorities that have moved into his suburban neighborhood and wishes they’d just leave him alone, stay off his lawn, and try not to steal his prized 1972 Gran Torino. Yeah, this is sounding less and less interesting. Did I mention 90% of the cast had never acted before and it shows?

Honestly, I’m a bit puzzled at the accolades being thrown at the film and the cynic in me just thinks people are continuing to blindly devote their cinematic sensibilities towards Eastwood based on his body of work, rather than judging this film on its own merits (of which there aren’t too many).

I’m not going to bother dissecting it too much, it’s really not worth my time, nor is it really worth any of yours. Suffice to say, Eastwood’s racist, gravelly voiced and senile depiction of a man supposedly grieving over the loss of his wife makes no sense. For someone who hates all the immigrants in the neighborhood, why would he bother to take one under his wing and teach him to be a man – especially if he was the one trying to steal his favorite car? And how is it that the offering of beer one afternoon (since he had just run out) makes it okay to go next door and turn his hateful bigotry into adorable bigotry as his mocking takes on that “he doesn’t really hate them” tone? And why in the hell does the trailer for this film look like an internet parody?

If you want good Eastwood, there are plenty of films on DVD just waiting for your inclusion onto some sort of rental queue. “Gran Torino” shouldn’t be on that list and I’m probably being a little generous giving it a 2 out of 5. It’s all like some cheap cardboard cut-out of the Dirty Harry franchise tossed together with bits of “Death Wish”, only with a lot of racism thrown in for fun. Sounds like a tasty film salad, huh? It’s more like one that should be tossed – Save your money.