Gran Torino is a movie of change and compassion. Its controversial prejudice combined with its racial slurs make it almost conflicting to watch. But Clint Eastwood put just the right amount of love in this movie to make your heart pitter and patter. In the movie Clint Eastwood plays a man named Walt Kowalski that has just lost his wife. His sons are selfish and lack the care to look past their racist, gun-toting, Korean War veteran father enough to understand and gain a relationship with him. He did however find someone to touch his heart oddly enough that was his Vietnam refugee neighbors sue and Tao.
The young siblings looked past the evil exterior or Eastwood once he helped save Tao from gang members. The favor sparked the relationship that led to the death of Walt. As I look deeper into this movie I find that this movie dealt heavily with prejudice and hatred towards people. There was age, racial, cultural and religious prejudice. In one scene it was Walt Kowalski’s birthday and his son and daughter in law arrived with cake in hand. They all sat down at the table and the couple sang happy birthday to Walt.
They talked to him in a loud gentle voice as if he was a small child. We often treat our elderly as if they are needy and incapable of living on their own. Walt’s son did just that by bringing nursing home and assisted living brochures for Walt to look at. Even though we care and want to make sure they are safe we have to understand that they are our elders. They are far wiser than we give them credit for. The way he was being treated obviously annoyed Walt so it became a perfect excuse to go off an insult his son and daughter-in-law.
They both then proceeded to rush out the door shouting about how they had made a major mistake by coming. This was not the only display of prejudice towards age in the movie. When Walt saw his neighbor being harassed by three African American males he pulled up beside the incident and ordered the males to leave. They laughed as if he was a joke. They displayed their ignorance as well as prejudice toward the elderly. He then showed them how threatening he really was by pulling out his firearm.
Cultural prejudice also played a huge part in the movie. The Vietnamese people in Walt’s neighborhood were very traditional they were Hmong people native to the hills of Vietnam and were US Allies in the Vietnam War. When Walt showed himself to be a hero they praised and showered him with gifts such as food and plants. Walt showed his intolerance for all things different when he insulted them and urged them to stop. The young girl Sue from next door refused to believe Walt was all anger so she urged him to join her family for a “cook out. He cursed at the thought of it but because of his hunger and shortage on beer Walt gave in. after tasting the food and being read by a type of psychic it seemed as if he was finally coming around. Walt displayed that he didn’t understand the cultural differences of the Vietnam people. Instead of being open he decided to be prejudice and insult the people. Racial prejudice was pretty obvious to point out in this film because it was everywhere. The African American were against every race, so were the Hispanics, so were the Asians and the Walt displayed his hate for everyone.
When the three African American males were harassing Sue the neighbor, they were also harassing the Caucasian male that she was with Walt insulted every single one of them. The boys insulted the white male as well as the Asian girl. This town is obviously one divided by racial gang violence. We saw this displayed when Tao was walking down the street by himself he was being harassed by a Hispanic gang one of his cousins who were in the Hmong gang came to the rescue. The gangs exchanged words and showed their firearms the Hmong won the battle when they displayed their semi-automatic.
The hatred towards other races is ridiculous when it comes to this movie. One of the most difficult to understand is the prejudice Walt shows towards his priest. It is obvious that he finds religion to be a weakness. The only reason it seemed that he didn’t slam the door in the priest face was because of his recently deceased wife had a strong faith. In every scene that Walt was in with the priest he insulted him in some way but towards the end when Walt arrived at confessional it seemed as if beneath all the anger and hatred here was a heart.
The priest tried to save Walt’s life but it was clear that he was ready to die. He was killed by the Hmong gang trying to save his new found friends Sue and Tao’s lives. What is amazing to me is also what makes this film enjoyable is that through all of the hatred and racial slurs people can’t deny love. As angry and bitter as Walt Kowalski was he died so that two Hmongs could live a safe and peaceful life. It might not have been the movie that left you feeling all warm and fuzzy inside but it was definitely heartfelt. Love can find its way to conquer even the most prejudice hearts.