Director: Clint Eastwood
Writer: Nick Schenk
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Bee Vang, Ahney Her, Brian Haley, Geraldine Hughes, Dreama Walker, Brian Howe, Christopher Carley, John Carroll Lynch
Seen on: 25.11.2015
Walt (Clint Eastwood) just lost his wife and the rest of his family – his children and grandchildren – doesn’t particularly like him and vice versa. Mostly Walt is being stubborn about everything which means that he is practically the only white person left in a neighborhood increasingly inhabited by Hmong people, despite the fact that Walt is virulently racist. When the neighbors’ kid Thao (Bee Vang), pressured by a local gang, tries to steal Walt’s car, a pristine Gran Torino, Walt catches him. Thao’s family insists that Thao make it up to Walt and they slowly grow closer.
Gran Torino is a hypermasculine, sexist and racist catastrophe of a movie. To add insult to injury, it’s even boring. In short, it completey re-affirmed to me why I usually hate Eastwood films.
I didn’t watch Gran Torino in the cinema when it came out and I would have probably lived my life peacefully until the end having never seen it, if it hadn’t been an assignment to watch it in one of my uni classes. So I bit the bullet and watched it. It turned out that it was even worse than what Eastwood usually serves up (which, for me, is mostly boring but at least not that infuriating).
Gran Torino is an exercise in toxic hypermasculinty. Walt’s posing and threatening, his gruffness and the racial slurs he constantly spouts are thinly veiled aggressions (sometimes they aren’t veiled at all) that are at the heart of a completely insane, paternalistic worldview. One where you can be anyone as long as you have a dick and behave like an old, white, conservative man like Walt. Any deviation from that is harshly punished by Walt, even if he does feel it’s possible to teach Thao to become that ideal. In that world there is no room for diversity and/or women – although the latter serve excellently as objects to be pursues sexually and to be protected from the pursuit and attacks of others. Women who can neither be sexual objects nor have to be protected (like Walt’s granddaughter or his daughter in law) are quickly and deftly dealt with: they are greedy assholes and not worth anybody’s attention.
In the end Walt does sacrifice himself for Thao and Sue (Ahney Her), completely pointlessly I might add, but because it’s The Right Thing To Do (TM) in Walt’s world. That sacrifice is supposed to rehabilitate Walt in the audience’ eyes but there’s never any regret on Walt’s part for the racial slurs and even if he is nice to a couple of Asian people, that doesn’t mean that he isn’t still an unrelenting racist. That his sexism or his swaggering aggression might be problems is never addressed by the film. I don’t think that the film sees them as problematic in the first place.
Gran Torino tries to sell us a grumpy, racist, sexist old fart as the ideal man and tries to pretend like there’s a character development that we never actually get to see but are supposed to believe and which is also supposed to excuse all the shit he has done before. I really don’t think so.