Review from a man who calls himself Gumbo Jones. Enjoy. -JO

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I wanted to be surprised by this. I really did.

But I feel like I’m crazy. I saw Gran Torino despite my instincts because I felt I should, and even tried to get excited because a couple of people whose opinions I value said it was very good. Even great but “of course flawed.” Granted… well, the flawed part. Am I crazy? I must be! So I guess I’ll have to agree to disagree with them on this one.

What am I not seeing? This movie is a crowd-pleasing C — at best! — elevated by a touching ending and the presence/performance of Clint Eastwood (note: performance, not necessarily his directing). I’m sorry, but I don’t see why this is any better a movie than, say, The Man Without A Face, or Dangerous Minds. No, it’s not the same as either. Perhaps it’s better than both. But those won’t be be remembered as good movies and I can’t imagine this one will either, among Eastwood’s films or otherwise.

Continue reading about Gran Torino (major spoilers)…

Who doesn’t like Eastwood being awesome? I do, surely, but I guess not as much as many others. To me, he carried the movie. But him being awesome isn’t enough for a whole movie. As for the rest of the movie? Amateur, sometimes laughable dialogue (full of amazingly unmasked exposition), transparent and trite characters and colors (Clint’s sons and grandchildren, for example), a predictable plot that is still somehow troubled by characters with unclear motives, and a supporting cast whose acting is inconsistent, wooden, and amateurish — at times I almost had to wonder if they were being dubbed… sincere as they were. The end is touching, for sure. One of the redeeming parts of the movie, and something I actually liked a lot. But I heard an audience member say when it was done “good end, I don’t think anyone expected that”… I beg to differ (unless they were talking about the title song). Now I don’t blame it for being predictable, but I do wish the rest of the movie could be as simple and well done as the “end” (I don’t mean the epilogue). I also quite liked Eastwood putting the boy to work, and what he has him do. That idea and the execution of it was good. See… it wasn’t all mediocre!

To be fair, much of the movie was fine, or maybe more than fine. It was watchable (though at the beginning I wasn’t convinced of that). You like the Eastwood character… a lot. Truly. And who doesn’t root for the underdog wimpy boy learning to be a man? But putting Eastwood at the center of a premise that’s redressed by Hollywood as many times as Boy-Meets-Girl does not suddenly make it a contender in the realm of great films this year.

Just when I thought the movie would end on a solid high note, when like Juno I thought I could forgive the first 20 (or in this case maybe 45) minutes and settle with this being a decent movie that many people love (but not me), in comes Clint Eastwood’s singing voice, awkwardly, singing a hilariously earnest and poorly written song as if to say “not so fast, Gumbo.”

And I have to take issue with the “gang” and the cousin who act as the villains in this movie. Can someone please explain to me why the did what they did? Because I really do not buy that he raped and beat his teenage girl cousin because Tao wouldn’t hang with them, or even because Clint beat up one of them. Seems like it happened because if they attacked Eastwood directly, or attacked anyone else to a lesser degree than rape and violence, or machine gun drive-bys, it wouldn’t set up Clint going in to sacrifice himself to save them. I also don’t understand why they were so insistent on Tao “hanging” with them, nor do I understand the back and forth Tao showed in dealing with them… avoiding even talking to them for a whole scene, and then after just a bit more peer pressure turning, and simply saying “what do I have to do?”… and then doing it…. Seems to me like things needed to happen in the script, so they happened.

– Gumbo Jones

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