Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Movie Review: Gran Torino

Got to check out Gran Torino last night in what, to most of the U.S., counts as an early release screening, but the movie has been out in Bethesda for about two weeks now. Gran Torino, starring Clint Eastwood as Walt Kowalski, a recently widowed, volatile, old-school, Korean war veteran, tells the tale of Kowalski and his bond with his Hmong neighbors. Eastwood's Kowalski is a complete bad ass who is especially prone to spewing racial and ethnic slurs as if they were pleasantries. Walt Kowalksi is one of the few white Americans left in the neighborhood, and though set on secluding himself from his Asian American community at first, he eventually grows very close to his neighbors who are the victims of torturous behavior from a local Hmong gang. Kowalski even acts as a father figure/mentor to his next door neighbor, a soft-spoken, well-mannered Asian teen who is often bullied by the gang. Though the script and acting is shaky at times and the storyline is very contrived (especially toward the end), Eastwood's performance flat carries the film. The major beef I have with the movie though, is that aside from Eastwood the rest of the characters were given mediocre scripts to work with, especially from the minority characters who were not portrayed realistically at all. They are completely stereotypical characterizations of their racial groups and the dialogue is hardly believable. My initial instinct leaving the theater was to give the movie a 4 because I could not stop laughing from some of the incredibly racially insensitive lines. But after stepping back and fairly assessing all of the films shortcomings, I'm going to give this movie a 3.5/5. It's a very fun movie, especially to see in theaters with friends... just make sure you're not easily offended.

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