Claiming the Car

In Film Reviews on February 13, 2009 at 6:59 pm

gran-torinoAs you may know, a Gran Torino is an old car.  Specifically, this film centers around Walt’s prize possession, his Gran Torino.  A Polish-American vet of the Korean War, Walt lives in a racially-diverse section of Detroit, which has changed significantly during his time there.  The ethnic diversity only incites Walt bigotry expressed in a myriad of ethnic slurs.  His young neighbor, Tao, whom Walt affectionately calls Toad, begins to be seduced by the only male figures in his community, members of the Hmong gang.  His cousin, ‘Spider’, heads the Hmong gang.  In the confusion, the gang members convince Tao to steal Walt’s Gran Torino as a rite of passage or initiation.

In the process of the theft, Walt pulls a huge rifle on Tao.  He barely escapes both Walt and the Hmong gang.  The movie progresses as Tao’s family befriends Walt, who was recently widowed.  When the family learns of Tao’s attempted crime, they force him to work for Walt, who begins to notice the fear in his community.  Hmong, Hispanic and African-American groups all enter onto the scene as Walt enacts a ‘Dirty-Harryish’ behavior toward them.

Throughout the film, Walt, played by Clint Eastwood, interacts with a young priest he calls ‘Padre’.  His deceased wife had charged the priest to bring Walt to confession.  Walt gives up the Dirty-Harry act when Tao’s sister is brutally beaten and, presumably, raped by the Hmong gang.  Walt sees that the violence only escalates.  In his place of weakness, Walt decides that confession and peace are closer to redemption that ‘shooting up’ the Hmong gang.  His decision ultimately halts the Hmong gang’s violence and ensures the safety of Tao’s family.

Stylistically, the film was dark in its humor.  Even though Walt’s rough exterior does not change from gruff racial slurs, it is evident that an internal shift takes place.  He shifts from insulation to care for Tao and his family, mostly displayed through his actions (not by his words).  In the end, the film provided interesting commentary on Eastwood’s earlier ‘bad cop’ films.  He resembles an older man acknowledging his violence and finds a new path to justice and redemption.

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