26 Feb 2009

Movie Review: Gran Torino

I got to the cinema last night expecting to see Gran Torino first followed by Cadillac Records before it's [Cadillac Records] taken off at my regular Cineworld cinema on Friday. It was Orange Wednesday and the queue was horrendous, so had already missed a few minutes of Gran Torino for the 18:15 showing. So I started my Wednesday night double bill watching Friday the 13th. It was either that or Push, and I wasn't in the mood for a badly reviewed movie just yet. The beauty about my Cineworld Unlimited card is I don't mind seeing the box office stinkers, and I'm hardly disappointed if a movie really is that bad because I'm not paying £6.50 a time to see one. When you pay £11.99 a month you think "ah well that was crap/not that bad", you shrug and see what you can watch on your next outing. I've seen some movies I know I'd normally not pay for. I usually used to keep the cinema outings for the big summer blockbusters [usually Marvel or DC superhero type capers]. I love me some sci-fi, fantasy, action flicks.

Anyway onto Gran Torino. Now I'm NEVER one to spoil a movie so don't worry there will not be any spoilers in this blog. Starring, directed and produced by Clint Eastwood. Dig this, old boy Clint even sung the closing song which was nominated for a Golden Globe [Best Original Song - Motion Picture]. Now you got to hand it to the old man, he can still act his ass off and do it well. Never liked his westerns, but my favourite in the Dirty Harry franchise was The Dead Pool which was the first time I saw Jim Carey on screen, and the first time aged 8 or 9 I first heard Guns n Roses [Welcome to the Jungle]. Don't ask what I was doing watching Dirty Harry [and an 18 certificate like that] before I even reached my first decade.

Walt Kowalski is a widower who holds onto his prejudices despite the changes in his Michigan neighbourhood and the world around him. Kowalski is a grumpy, tough-minded, unhappy an old man, who can't get along with either his kids or his neighbours, a Korean War veteran whose prize possession is a 1972 Gran Torino he keeps in mint condition. When his neighbour Thao, a young Hmong teenager under pressure from his gang member cousin, tries to steal his Gran Torino, Kowalski sets out to reform the youth. Drawn against his will into the life of Thao's family, Kowalski is soon taking steps to protect them from the gangs that infest their neighbourhood.

I've read the reviews on this movie [I only do this after I watch a film, never before] and for once I was in agreement with the general consensus. It was a great movie. Now this film I felt was deep, but it was also very funny. It's funny when it isn't supposed to be, usually centred around Walt's [Clint Eastwood] racist and foul mouth and just on being a very miserable and an unhappy bastard. You're supposed to hate a man like this, one who if you came across in real life would really want to make his life hell. But you can't help but warm to him in some warped way and just want someone to love him other than his dog, and give him a big ol' hug.

Clint went gangster in this role. If you watch it you'll see what I'm talking about. You wish there were more people like this around, that stand up for what they believe in and want to right a lot of wrongs, as well as try and find peace and love in his life [that you assume he had before his wife died]. It's not an action film, so don't think from the title of the movie and the car that this is some old man version of The Fast & The Furious. It's not. It's a drama, which is funny albeit serious. You'll know when you're supposed to laugh [even though you're laughing at everything which is inappropriate] and you'll definitely know when to be still and silent. It's not a complex movie, you may know what might happen, or in some parts not. It's a slow paced movie, but don't let that put you off, because although it's not an 'all guns a blazing' film I found I was glued to the screen, I wasn't clock watching and I certainly didn't drift off. Certain films are made for certain types of people. Those that can appreciate a drama for 116 minutes and not kiss their teeth at the lack of something, and just sit there and take in the story and be able to actually understand what's going on.

You know when you're going to see a Clint Eastwood film, especially those made in his later years, that you are going to see something moving and thought provoking. I was moved and my thought was definitely provoked. When the credits rolled, there were a few people who didn't move, I had to move and go to the bathroom to compose myself. If you like movies that are well acted, well scripted and not about the fancy effects [for once], then this is a movie for you.

Another movie snubbed by Hollywood and the Academy Awards. **Shakes head** Yep another man who should have been up there in the acting stakes nominated for his portrayal in this movie over the over-hyped performance of Mickey Rourke. I've now seen two performances which overshadowed Rourke's [Will Smith and now Clint Eastwood] that were royally snubbed. Shame on Hollywood, they really were smoking something this year and it was probably laced with PCP.

What can I say, I loved this movie for all the right and wrong reasons. It actually makes me want to go back and watch the older Clint Eastwood films around the Million Dollar Baby era that's he's starred in and directed. I should just go and add them to the DVD rental list. I haven't seen a Clint Eastwood film since March 2005 and that was in fact Million Dollar Baby, I remember because I was in Barcelona at the time and so depressed and sad after watching it [my friend was too] that we had to go and see Hitch the next day to pull ourselves out of it. Seriously it got to us that badly. I felt so broken and sad after watching that film. Either Clint acts his way through some really serious subject matter really well, or he chooses those pull at the heartstrings type of movie. Maybe it's a bit of both. All I know is I have a new found respect for Clint Eastwood and his work and seeing as this maybe his last outing in front of the camera I'm definitely going to have to take a look at his back catalogue. He definitely went out of the Hollywood limelight in style if Gran Torino is the last role he'll play.

I was more moved by this movie than I was by Slumdog Millionaire which I'd seen the night before [and it was nothing to do with Slumdog hype at all ruining it for me]. I was moved by both, but this gripped me more. After another viewing when it comes out on DVD it maybe one that I'll add to my favourite movies, which will be a change considering my favourite films [from a storyline and visual perspective] are both Sci-Fi/action flicks [Terminator 2: Judgement Day and The Matrix]. If you're smart enough to figure it out these movies are more than guns and special effects. The story, the underlying message and the meaning are all there. Especially with The Matrix. I can't go into it, it's too long and quite deep.

"It isn't his late masterpiece: I think his Iwo Jima movies fit that bill better. But it is almost certainly Clint Eastwood's final acting appearance: a must-see on that account if nothing else."

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