Detroiter, Julie Harris reading on New York subway. (1951)
Gran Torino is set in Detroit and was filmed here but it doesn't reflect the real Detroit in its racial makeup. Although the Detroit Metro area is racially and ethnically diverse, Detroit proper is not. I don't know if that's important in terms of the story however. The original story was set in Minneapolis, where there is a huge Hmong population within the city limits. The Hmong stand in for any group living in poverty in the inner city.
In Gran Torino's Detroit, a group of Hmong have taken up residence in Korean Vet, Walt Kowalski's, neighborhood and his negative and positive interactions with these people frame the story. I'm not going to review this movie in terms of plot or merit. It has a coherent and interesting plot and it's well done. Eastwood creates a memorable character although at a cost.
What concerned me about the movie was the way that the audience reacted to Walt's racism. I am not saying that men like Walt don't exist or that movies should not be made about them, but I am saying this movie raised the hair on my neck many times and had a curious attitude toward its protagonist and his idea of manhood.
In the end, of course, Walt "does the right thing." But along the way, we get to hear him sling his racial slurs in almost every scene. The huge audience I saw it with laughed every time he spewed his venom. They admired Walt in the way they admire Lou Dobbs or Rush Limbaugh or Bill O'Reilly for not abiding by our notion of what's acceptable language. For "shocking" us repeatedly.
The audience in a inner ring Detroit suburb was all white. Does that tell you anything?Once Eastood had established Walt's racism, was it really necessary such language to continue? Although it was true to his character was it true to the final message of the movie. I think not.
I liked the movie at points for trying to deal with a hard subject matter, but in its creation of a racist, it appealed to a lot of racists.
And the great Travis Erwin is back shepherding MTM this week. Check out the other posts.