“Get off my lawn!” No that’s not my snarky caption, it’s an actual line from the movie said no less than five times.
Gran Torino marks the first Oscar-bait movie I’ve seen thus far which drastically fails to live up to expectations. The reviews have been good, my friends all recommended it to me and hell, it even cracked the IMDB Top 250 at #192.
And I thought it was just OK.
This happens every once in awhile, where I find myself disagreeing with absolutely every other person on the planet about a movie, but that usually has to do with my unnatural love for The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift. In this case, I appear to be in a very small majority of those who think the film is rather unimpressive.
The movie is, for lack of a better phrase, awkward as hell. This has to do with a few things, but it can be mainly attributed to Clint Eastwood’s use of untrained actors in the role of the Hmong characters in the film. You know, it’s great to use untrained actors sometimes, maybe get a “raw” look at the kinds of lives they lead (in this case with Hmong gangsters), but you know what? Directors normally choose trained actors for films like this, because they can act.
The problem with the Hmong isn’t broken English, it’s the awkward starts and stops between their lines, which is acceptable for an untrained actor, but not so much for a movie that’s trying to win Oscars. I think it was a risky decision using this cast, and ultimately I think the trade-off of believability for authenticity wasn’t worth it.
Alright, alright, I laughed at this part.
Clint himself has his own issues. Sure he plays the mean old coot card exceptionally well, but mark my words, there will soon be a three minute long YouTube video posted soon enough that catalogs every time Clint sighs, grunts or groans in the film.
In fact, the vast majority of the film feels like a comedy. After the initial funeral scene, Clint is constantly spouting racial slurs about every ethnic group imaginable, the shock value of which is entertaining in itself, and then as he slowly bonds with his Hmong neighbors, there are a few more “hilarious” cultural barriers he encounters which include jokes about eating dogs. Ha. Ha.
And then the last twenty minutes of the film just drop of the cliff of doom and gloom. There’s rape, shootouts, murder, it comes out of nowhere with blinding speed. Add to that an incredibly predictable and not particularly logical ending, and you have me sitting here wondering what all the fuss was about.
The film’s best moments comes from Clint and his interaction with his two young Hmong neighbors, the bond they build with each other is well-developed, as is likewise his toxic relationship with his own family and his priest.
Gran Torino is somewhat of a mystery to me, as I watch critics and the public alike throw roses at its feet. I feel that if Clint Eastwood wasn’t involved, if it was some other lesser known director and actor who shot and acted out the film exactly the same way, the film wouldn’t have even been a blip on the radar.
3 out of 5 stars
Look out Clint, it’s the Zodiac!