Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Gran Torino as a snapshot of America

If you haven't seen the movie, Gran Torino, I won't spoil the ending for you here, but don't read too much further because it gets spoiled in the last paragraph.

So, I don't know what you thought, but I was somewhat dissatisfied with the ending. I think it's because whenever I saw this movie in the past, like in the 1970's with Clint Eastwood or Charles Bronson, it had a similar violent conclusion, but flipped 180 degrees.

Now that it's the new millennium, you can see how Gran Torino could represent America's place in the world. At one point, Walt Kowalski (Eastwood) is given a reading by a Hmong holy man and he is told that no one likes him or respects him and that he's done things in the past that he regrets. If Clint didn't represent America in the year 2009 in that scene, I don't know what else he was supposed to be.

So I started to think about that lone gunman myth of the American Western, like in High Noon or Shane or even The Shootist, and how the bad guys need to be punished. But these days, we know that violence doesn't always solve the world's problems. It might again in the near future, but not today. So how would Gran Torino have ended if it were made twenty or thirty years ago?

If Gran Torino had been made in 1975, it would have ended with a gunfight, with Walt standing "mano-a-mano" and shooting from the hip to kill all the bad guys.

If Gran Torino had been made in 1985, it would have ended with a firefight, with the titular vehicle fitted with a hood mounted .50 caliber machine gun or towing a small cannon or Howitzer to blow the criminal's hide-out to splinters.

If Gran Torino had been made in 1995, Walt would have called in some help from an ex-Army chopper pilot who would have swooped in with an Apache attack helicopter, chain-gun, and Hellfire rockets to vaporize the building.

But in the post-Iraq-Bush world, America is supposed to play nice and let the proper authorities dispense justice. We can act tough, but that's it.

So this leads to the real end of Gran Torino when we hear a police officer say, "This time we have witnesses" and we watch as the young thugs get hauled off to jail.

Which leads me to speculate on a follow-up film, Gran Torino 2: Toad's Revenge. Because when the thugs get their lawyers to have them released on bail, they return to the neighborhood to terrorize the witnesses into forgetting what they saw. And Thao mans-up enough to take them on. Using tools from Walt's garage, he gets "medieval on their asses." And maybe Sue gets some hot kung fu babes to help. Sounds good, huh? Yeah, I'm smelling sequel. Someone get Michael Bay on the phone.