Friday, April 15, 2011

"Gran Torino:" Clint's last stand (maybe)

Title: Gran Torino
Released: 2008
Genre: "Grumpy Old Men" meets "Dirty Harry"
Notable for: Clint's final acting role, probably
Coolest thing Clint does: Growls down the barrel of his gun at Asian punk gang-bangers

If "Gran Torino" is Clint's last film as an actor, at least he had the good grace to give longtime fans (translation: lowbrow morons like us) something to savor.

Frequent grunts and grimaces, a big gun, funny scenes, and growling threats to blow evil heads off — that's the Clint we like best.

"Gran Torino" was filmed 90 miles from our door in scenic Highland Park, Michigan. Clint plays a sort of person who populates our world and our extended family, a retired autoworker.

Clint is a racist (although he never uses the word for black people that all white racists in Detroit use) who sits on his porch drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon without ever saying anything nice. He's also a Korean War veteran who does not take shit. His vintage Ford Gran Torino, which Clint helped build on the assembly line, is his prized possession.

His wife is dead, his children and grandchildren are selfish assholes and his neighborhood is, in his view, going to hell with an influx of Hmong immigrants.

The old dude might never leave his porch, but a changing world keeps forcing him into action. This leads to some Classic Clint scenes, like when he confronts some wanna-be gangster punks who hassle a neighbor girl.

"Ever notice you come across somebody every once in a while you shouldn't have fucked with?" Clint asks the punks. Then he spits, like Josey Wales. "That's me."

The real story is Clint's relationship with a Hmong family next door, especially their Americanized daughter and "pussy kid" son. Clint saves the boy from the clutches of an Asian gang, snarling the most famous line from "Gran Torino:" "Get off my lawn."

"We used to stack fucks like you five feet high in Korea," he says. "Use you for sandbags."

Clint slowly takes the wimpy boy under his wing, leading to one of Clint's all-time funniest scenes when he tries to teach the boy how to act like a man.

In the end, Clint must confront the bad guys just like he did at the start of his first real movie, when The Man With No Name confronted those low-lives who laughed at his mule. This time, he shoots no one, and instead sacrifices his life so the Hmong boy can live free.

He's dying of terminal disease, anyway, so it is Clint's triumph to go out with a manly flourish.

If this is the end of the road for Clint's acting career, he made it the same sort of triumph in real life.

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