Gran Torino: Hollywood Gets it Right

How many of you saw Gran Torino?

Yeah, yeah, I know I’m behind.  If you’re like me and have not seen it, get the hell to your video store now.  Now!

Seriously, this movie was so good, it puts me into a killing rage over the rest of the lazy pap Hollywood is pumping out.

Kinda like this guy...

Warner Bros. Pictures / NYT

Situation:  Walt Kowalski, a weathered and misanthropic Korean War veteran has lost his wife.  A Hmong family is living next door to him, much to his crabby, racist chagrin. One night he catches their teenaged son Thao Vang Lor in his garage, clumsily attempting to steal his cherry 1970s Gran Torino as part of a gang initiation.  The family is ashamed and offers the kid’s services as reparation.  And so it begins.

Clint Eastwood has been working in films for decades.  The man knows a good story when he sees it.  He took one look at Nick Schenk’s freshly-optioned screenplay and insisted not a word be changed.

The story takes its time building the characters.  We get to know Walt fairly quickly, because he doesn’t hide his personality in the least.  Thao has a sister, Sue, who breaks through Walt’s crusty exterior not by being sweet and sunny, but by not taking any of his shit.

As the neighbors slowly and painfully get to know each other, we see that they each have troubles and conflicts.  Thao’s problems start to spill over into Walt’s life (and onto his lawn) not just because they live next door to each other, but because they are becoming friends.

Each scene moves the story along, a sign of good writing.  There is nothing wasted here.  I had no sense of time passing as I watched the film, as I often do when a story is packed with tedious filler.  Even the long and excruciatingly awkward barbecue Walt attends when he’s first invited over by Sue has its purpose in establishing first contact.

Schenk, a television writer, hit this one out of the ballpark.  If he never produces another screenplay, it won’t matter.  It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy to know that this genial-looking writer, the same age as me, toiling away in TV work, had such a success.  If he can, I can.

To my friend who said “You can’t do anything important after 30,” TAKE THAT!

When a writer does something this good, it inspires the rest of us.  When Hollywood can take a powerful, affecting story and not screw it up, a tiny flicker of hope kindles inside me for the future of movies.  The day Eastwood no longer walks among us will be a tremendous loss and I hope there are other directors coming up behind him who are up to the challenge.

Watch the trailer for Gran Torino here.


5 thoughts on “Gran Torino: Hollywood Gets it Right

    • Hmm, a remake of RoboCop? Don’t think I’m interested. You know how I feel about remakes. Of course, if he keeps to his standard and they don’t cut the crap out of his story, then it might be worth renting.

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