The Flawed Script of Gran Torino

Yeah, yeah, I know … Gran Torino came out a couple months ago, and in terms of the Internet, that’s like a billion years and therefore it’s no longer a film that is worthy of discussion. Well, screw you all. I didn’t have a blog back then, and I’ve gotta get this off my chest.

First off, let me say that I thought Gran Torino was a pretty good movie. Not the best movie of all time, but it certainly didn’t suck, and I left the theatre feeling as though I got my money’s worth.

However, while watching the film, I couldn’t help but notice how unbelievably awkward the script was at certain points. Unecessary dialogue, blatantly loaded exposition … all sticking out like the proverbial sore thumb.

Being somewhat of an aspiring screenwriter, I decided to check out the script (written by Nick Schenk) to see if it was actually as rough as the movie itself made it out to be.

And that’s when I discovered that the script for Gran Torino is a giant pile of turds.

"Get off my lawn."

"Get off my lawn."

I sat there stunned as I read Schenk’s script, bewildered by the number of rules he breaks within the first few pages alone. Seems the dude has a bit of a problem with telling instead of showing. And when I say a bit of a problem, I actually mean a huge friggin’ problem.

Let’s take a look, shall we?

From the very first page, when we first meet Walt:

Walt Kowalski looks young for his age. He has slate blue
eyes, physically fit and has had the same buzz cut
hairstyle since getting out of the military in 1953.

Okay, the first couple of lines check out, but … excuse me? Just by looking at him, we can tell that he’s been out of the military since 1953? How the hell is that even possible?

I think this passage could have been improved simply by saying that Walt was in his in his seventies (but looked young for his age) and had a military buzz cut as though he had worn it his entire life.

See? Simple. It tells the reader that Walt is undeniably a military man, but without providing random dates and facts that cannot possibly be discerned from our very first look at the man in the very first scene in the movie.

Perhaps the worst example of Schenk’s “telling” is on the fifth page, when Walt lays eyes on his Hmong neighbours:

Next door to Walt’s house some sort of party is going on.
Walt can see through the window that the living room is
jammed with at least forty people, all Asians, all Hmong.

And this is a problem for Walt, because Walt is a full-
blown, unrepentant racist.

Walt lights a cigarette and speaks to his dog, Daisy.

Jesus Christ, how many swamp rats
can they cram into a living room?

Walt spits in the snow and walks back to the garage.

Now tell me … just what in the fuck is the sentence “And that is a problem for Walt, because Walt is a full-blown, unrepentant racist” doing in the goddamn script? There’s absolutely no reason to include this line! None whatsoever! Especially when we get a glimpse of Walt’s racism from his dialogue in that very same scene! It’s “show, don’t tell” … not “tell and then show”.

Want some more? Let’s roll:

The Gran Torino is in mint condition. It has been babied
since the day it rolled off the line.

Walt goes in the back door and a moment later the kitchen
light comes on. The Gran Torino remains in the driveway.

It’s a challenge, an invitation. Walt is daring the
thief to come back. And Walt’s ready this time.

What does that even mean? How is he ready? Is he sneering, face tense, scanning the night like a hawk while clutching his rifle? Show me, dammit!

It just infuriates me to see professional screenwriters making these amateur mistakes (sidenote: I can no longer say that word without thinking of Christian Bale), but all it takes is for Clint Eastwood to come along and take them on a ride to Awesometown.

Ah well, guess it gives a little bit hope for schlubs like me …

"I said, get off my lawn."

"I said, get off my lawn."