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Gran Torino

A movie directed by Clint Eastwood

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Was He YOUR Father, too?

  • Jun 16, 2009
I should have saved Gran Torino for Father's Day, this coming weekend, and watched it together with my son, maybe as a double feature with The Great Santini. Looking over the reviews of this film here on the Big River, I find that the stars are closely correlated with the reminiscences of ornery old bustard fathers. Mine was one. In fact, my Dad looked almost exactly like Walt Kowalsky, Eastwood's character, at the same age. He dressed the same, walked the same, drank almost the same (slightly better taste in beer), and definitely hated the same. Only his accent was different -- my Dad's -- being a weird acquired country-western drawl on top of his still-Swedish pronunciation. He worshiped, like Kowalski, in the great American Church on Wheels; he was a car mechanic most of his life, and he had a Plymouth Barracuda that he cared for more tenderly than either of his two children. He was washing his car one afternoon, at age 91, when he had a stroke and died with the hose running. Neighbors found him a few hours later when the water started to flood their yard. Those neighbors were Salvadoreños rather than Hmong, as in Eastwood's film, but the neighborhood dynamics were equivalent.

Some critics have 'explained' Walt Kowalsky's bitter racism and self-hatred as the consequence of his experiences in the Korean War. Eastwood himself expresses that through his character's mouth and through the starchy dialogue between Walt and the young priest who tries to 'understand' him. Honestly, I don't think the atrocities of war were necessary to create a Walt Kowalsky. My father was of an age to have fought in WW2, but he didn't. He dodged, and the rest of his life he did his best to pretend he hadn't. In the '60s, he "disowned" me - temporarily - for refusing service in Viet Nam. I see this exoneration of Walt Kowalsky, as a victim of PTSD, as a slight weakness in the concept of Gran Torino, a too-easy excuse for the racism and xenophobia of "our" fathers' generation(s).

The most touching moment of Gran Torino comes when Walt murmurs that he feels more in common with his g**k neighbors than with his upwardly-mobile sons and their families. That's not a unique perception. Garrison Keillor has expressed it time and again in his Lake Wobegon sketches. Farmers in Iowa, according to NPR, have been finding themselves sharing more with their hired Guatemalan help than with their college-gone heirs; they end up selling the farm to the newcomers and staying on as guests.

But my own father never had Walt Kowalsky's epiphany. Tragically, he remained a ranting rightwing racist till the end. The virtue of this film -- this re-examination of 'Dirty Harry' by the actor who made "dirty Harry' an iconic figure -- is Clint Eastwood's powerful affirmation of a new integrated America, the land where diversity and assimilation can be reconciled. I wish all our fathers had gone that route.

Artistically, cinematographically, Eastwood's performance in the role of Kowalsky is the only five-star feature of Gran Torino. The script is no masterpiece, and the other actors range from "not bad" to "well, I've seen worse." Clint Eastwood is his own most iconic story, from his spaghetti westerns to his comedy surliness to his current confessional maturity. I wonder who has the film rights to produce "The Eastwood Chronicle" when he dies...

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More Gran Torino (movie) reviews
review by . June 12, 2011
A great movie that touches on many issues
This drama, starring Clint Eastwood, and directed, produced, and partially written by him, is properly advertised as "the performance of a lifetime." It is undoubtedly one of the best films. The story is about an elderly man, an award winning veteran of the Korean War, an atheist, who has never been found contentment in life, whose wife just died, and who, knowing her husband's problems, asks a young parish priest to look after him. He lives in a neighborhood that has changed, surrounded …
Quick Tip by . July 06, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Eastwood depicts a population in our country that is becoming more and more prominent. The elder veteran in a changing world, he responds to attacks on his freedom by reaching out to an unlikely family from another world.
Quick Tip by . July 25, 2010
Eastwood should have retired after this movie. It's one of his best in a while.
Quick Tip by . July 24, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
A bigoted Korean war vet and widow stands up for his Hmong neighbors when the local gang terrorizes his neighborhood. Lots of great moments with Clint Eastwood in great form. If he does in fact retire with this movie, he's going out on a high note.
Quick Tip by . July 20, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Gran Torino is an excellent film that shows Eastwood still has it. Definitely teaches us tolerance is the best policy.
Quick Tip by . July 13, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Clint at 80 is still the man! Love that pure Detroit muscle car!
Quick Tip by . July 03, 2010
Great movie
review by . April 07, 2010
Take a classic action hero years removed from his action days, a cast of people who have never acted in a movie before, an experienced director and a cleverly plotted and written picture and you get a classic.    Gran Torino works on every level. Eastwood absolutely shines as a old vet and autoworker who has two great pleasures in his life, his wife whose funeral begins the movie and his Gran Torino. As Detroit changes and falls apart and the neighbors are increasingly Hmong …
Quick Tip by . March 13, 2010
I enjoyed this film more than I thought I would, especially the humor and tenderness.
review by . March 20, 2009
Gran Torino Movie Poster
I have to admit that I was a bit tentative about seeing "Gran Torino" because I heard that there were a lot of racist remarks in this movie (particularly ones geared toward Asians).  I know first hand how awkward it can be growing up as a minority in America.   I was raised in New Mexico since the age of 4... and there aren't a whole lot of us Chinese kids growing up there, let me tell ya! :)    But I soon realized after watching this movie, that my fears were …
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Göran ()
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About this movie


Gran Torino is a 2008 American drama film directed and produced by Clint Eastwood, who also stars in the film. The film marks Eastwood's return to a lead acting role after four years, his last leading role having been in Million Dollar Baby. The film features a predominantly Hmong cast, as well as Eastwood's younger son, Scott Eastwood, playing "Trey". Eastwood's oldest son, Kyle Eastwood, provided the score. The film opened to theaters in a limited release in North America on December 12, 2008, and later to a worldwide release on January 9, 2009.

The story follows Walt Kowalski, a recently widowed Korean War veteran who is alienated from his family and angry at the entire world. On a dare by his cousin for initiation into a gang, Thao, Walt's young neighbor, tries to steal Walt's prized 1972 Ford Gran Torino. Walt develops a relationship with the boy and his family.

Gran Torino was a critical and commercial success, grossing over $269 million worldwide.
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Director: Clint Eastwood
Genre: Action, Adventure
MPAA Rating: PG-13
DVD Release Date: June 9, 2009
Runtime: 116 minutes
Studio: Warner Home Video
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