So this week we watched “Gran Torino“, one of Clint Eastwood’s late-career movies that doesn’t go the way you think it’s going to go. In this film, Clint Eastwood plays Walt Kowalski, a recently-widowed Korean war veteran living in a neighborhood that has become rather dilapidated, and also largely ethnic Hmong, including a thuggish street gang whose members like to cram, clown-car style, into a rather junky little beater with an ugly spoiler and a hood that’s not the same color as the body. Walt’s prized Gran Torino catches the gang’s eye as a much more suitable ride. Hilarity does not ensue.
We also watched “Gran Torino” last week, and, I think, part of the week before. Long-time readers familiar with the film rating system we use around these parts will already suspect why.
Wife: “I want to watch this dog training DVD.”
Me: “Okay, do you want to finish up ‘Gran Torino’ first?”
Wife: “Sure, we must be almost done with that, right?”
Me: (checks time remaining) “We have about an hour left.”
Wife: “Really? It seems like we’ve been watching it for a long time.”
Me: “We have been, in ten-minute increments.”
Yes, this was one of those movies where my wife liked it enough to want to see it through, but not enough to actually stay awake for it. You know the type.*
“Gran Torino” uses the character of Walt as a commentary on the sort of archetypical urban avenger Clint Eastwood used to play in the “Dirty Harry” films; he squints, he glares, he growls, he’s heavily armed, and he brooks no crap from anyone, be they his children and grandchildren, the apple-cheeked priest sicced on him by his late wife, or the Hmong neighbor who’s coerced by the gang (one of its leaders is the neighbor’s cousin) into trying to steal his car. Yet somewhere along the line, Walt begins to suspect that he may in fact be part of the problem, not part of the solution. This is when my wife started to pay some more serious attention to the movie, and managed to stay awake for the entire final act, during which Walt begins plotting the downfall of the Hmong gangbangers. In fact, a conversation along these lines ensued at that point:
Me: (looks at clock, notes is almost 10pm) “Do you want to go to bed and finish ‘Gran Torino’ tomorrow?”
Wife: “No, let’s keep going, I want to see what happens.”
So here we have a split decision — the first two-thirds or so of “Gran Torino” kept putting her to sleep in about ten minutes, while the final third didn’t put her to sleep at all. Not bad for a film about an old man and his car.
* This is the same reason it took us nearly a month to get through the Oz-based miniseries “Tin Man” a few years back.