Gran Torino

As I’ve said, my family doesn’t have a ton of traditions, but one we do keep is going to a movie on Christmas Day. This year, we decided to see Gran Torino, since it was filmed entirely in metro Detroit, and was one of the first films to take advantage of our state’s new tax credits for the film industry. I was mainly interested in seeing if I recognized any of the settings, but the plot also piqued my curiosity.

I’m not going to even attempt to provide an exhaustive review the movie, it’s entirely too late at night for that level of coherence and I’m not one to provide spoilers for people who might want to see it. Instead, I thought I’d share a few thoughts.

First, not only was I excited to see the movie filmed in Detroit, but also one that takes place in the city. I thought it could be good for the image, and goodness knows our fair city could use a PR makeover. I should have known better, though, as the movie takes place in the ‘hood and the plot’s main centerpiece is gang presence in the city. 

Obviously, that’s not going to portray a pretty picture. Sure, the movie probably gives an accurate portrayal of life in an unkept Detroit neighborhood. But it’s also probably an accurate portrayal of life in any inner city. My fear is that people will see this film, and then add it to everything else they are hearing about Detroit these days. My fear is that people will see this movie and not think about the fact that it could have taken place in any major city across the country, but that instead they will see the abandoned homes and empty lots and believe that this could only happen in Detroit and therefore Detroit must be a pretty bad place to be. I know people have thought this for decades, but given all the other negativity of late, I think the movie will fuel that perception even more so right now. 

I guess I’m putting this out there to say that if you do see the movie, and you do come away feeling that way, well, don’t. Yes, there are parts of Detroit where you probably shouldn’t be wandering around. There are also parts of Chicago that that applies to. Yes, there are gangs and violence in Detroit. I’ve heard tell New York has an issue with that as well.  

There are also parts of Detroit going through a rebirth. There are also parts of Detroit that we are immensely proud of and amazing neighborhoods where neighbors have worked hard to create a thriving community. There are also cultural aspects of Detroit that rival Chicago and New York.

OK, off the soapbox. It was still fun to see familiar sights, like my street for example! There are a couple scenes in a local barber shop that were shot just a few blocks away from my apartment and I definitely recognized the street.

Another interesting aspect was what each of us took away from the movie. There were five of us who went, and I think we each came away with a slightly different message. My father, the soldier, heard a message about life and death that the main character, a Korean War vet, professes. And me, the granddaughter, came away with a different view of my elders. A more respectful view. In fact, it made me want to call up my grandmother, who I haven’t talked to in probably two years. This is mainly because she scares me just a bit, but still. She is my grandmother, and it’s important to maintain a relationship.

Overall, a good choice for a flick. It was around two hours, and felt a little draggy in parts, but then again, everything that long feels draggy to me when I’m stuck in a movie theater seat. Still worth seeing.

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3 Comments

Filed under DD (aka My Man), Detroit, family values, glass half full

3 responses to “Gran Torino

  1. allthewine

    grr I get so mad when they take advantage of the blight. But I also get tired of defending a city that I love, a city that has good parts and bad like any other city, a place that has charmed me despite it’s flaws.

  2. I totally hear you on people getting that negative image of Detroit from the movie. After the Motor City Bowl the other day, there were about 12 cop cars all around Woodward and there was no accident. So more than likely, there was a shooting or a big fight. I immediately got worried that people who went to the Motor City Bowl and don’t frequent Detroit and saw all those cop cars would get the wrong impression and be scared to come back down here. Anyway…good review of the movie! My bf and I are pretty excited to see it!

  3. I get so geeked when I see Detroit in movies, but since one of the biggest attractions (the Central Train Depot) is also the most emblematic of urban decay, I sometimes feel conflicted. Though I really enjoyed seeing it in “The Island” and “Transformers.”

    I hope many people who aren’t Detroiters read your post. Like you said, urban decay is a problem all across the U.S. It’s a problem in Europe, too. It’s very tiring to hear Detroit bad-mouthed like we’re just really dumb or violent or something.

    One last thing, in response to Nikki’s comment about the amount of cop cars on Woodward at the Motor City Bowl: it’s interesting that you assumed they were there because of a shooting or a big fight, when anytime there’s a big event at Ford Field or the Fox Theater there is a big police presence for traffic control purposes, and, (I assume) to make people who are afraid to come to Detroit feel safe. I guess that part backfired on them.

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