Desperate to cure ourselves of the horrific trauma of watching that stolen shit Ghajini, we were eager for some purifying Ganga Jal.
And we found our moksha in the new Clint Eastwood film Gran Torino (in limited release now in the U.S.).
Gran Torino is that rare all sizzle and all steak movie.
If you thought Slumdog Millionaire was great, you ain’t seen nothing till you watch this splendid tour de force produced and directed by Clint Eastwood.
Yes sir, Clint Eastwood also plays the key role in this movie.
As the gruff recent widower Walt Kowalski much irritated by the arrival of Hmong immigrants as his new next-door neighbors, Clint Dirty Harry Eastwood turns in a mighty good performance that’s the talk of the town for its Oscar possibilities.
Already hostile and racist in his attitude and words, Walt Kowalski becomes incensed when he catches one of his Hmong neighbors, the young boy Thao (Bee Vang), trying to steal his prized Gran Torino car as part of a gang initiation rite.
Gooks, zipperheads, chinks and swamp rats are only some of the racist insults Walt hurls at the Hmongs (some of them are not his neighbors but gang-members trying to get young Thao to join them).
In one of his particularly irate moments, Walt, a Korean war veteran, tells Thao:
We used to stack fucks like you five feet high in Korea and use you for sandbags.
On another occasion, he tells some gang members in the hallmark menacing Clint Eastwood style:
Ever notice how once in a while you come across someone you shouldn’t fuck with. That’s me.
But as Thao makes amends for his attempted theft of the Gran Torino and with Thao’s bossy elder sister Sue (Ahney Her) acting as his guide to the family, the grouchy old man Walt slowly warms to his Hmong neighbors as he contrasts them to his own selfish children and trashy grandchildren.
As he acknowledges:
I have more in common with these gooks than with my own rotten, spoiled family.
But Gran Torino is more than just a racist tirade or a violent tale.
There are some superb comic moments and the one that lingers is the scene where Walt Kowalski takes his young neighbor Thao to the barber shop to ‘man him up’ before the boy starts on his construction job.
That scene with all its biting racist back-and-forth insults between the Italian-American barber Martin, the Polish American Walt and the Hmong American Thao is a hilarious riot.
To adopt a hackneyed Bollywood phrase, the barber salon scene alone is paisa vasool.
Whether in his lacerating interactions with the persistent Catholic priest Janovich (Christopher Carley), the early interactions with Thao and Sue, the later interactions with Thao, or in his run-ins with the Black and Hmong gangs, Clint Eastwood is a dynamo of virtuosity.
Oh, yeah the Gran Torino story packs a powerful punch. Without that, the rest is always nothing anyway.
If Clint Eastwood’s performance is nonpareil, the youngsters Bee Vang and Ahney Her who play Thao and Sue respectively handle their roles with complete aplomb.
When the Hmong house comes under gang-fire one night and Sue returns badly battered and bloodily raped by the Hmong gang members, Walt Kowalski’s anger reaches a crescendo as he smashes into the glass panes with his bare hands and leads into a blazingly brilliant denouement.
Unlike our idiot Bollywood movie-makers who go off gallivanting to Peru, Namibia, Switzerland, New York and Australia at the drop of a duppatta (primarily because they have no story worth telling), much of Gran Torino was filmed in a nondescript house and street (Detroit, we hear).
Such is the brilliance of the actors, the allure of the story, the sparkle of the dialogs and the dazzle of the screenplay in Gran Torino that 2-hrs and 9-min just whooshed past us.
The screenplay is by Nick Schenk based on the story by David Johannson and Schenk.
Folks, if you decide you are going to watch just one movie for the next six months Gran Torino is that movie.
If Gran Torino does not win Clint Eastwood one or more Oscars, By Shani we swear we’ll watch a Telugu movie (held up as the ne plus ultra of crappy Indian movies) and review it too.
To borrow a phrase from this gem of a movie, if bitter is your pain upon watching Ghajini, sweet will be your salvation upon watching Gran Torino.
(Wide release of Gran Torino in the U.S. on January 9. No idea when this movie will make it to our homeland India)