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Gran Torino

A movie directed by Clint Eastwood

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4 ½ Stars: "Get Off my Lawn....."

  • Feb 14, 2009

I've always had a fondness for Eastwood's direction and films; his latest, "GRAN TORINO" may not be his best directorial film assignment but it sure is a welcome addition to his directorial opus. This film is a melodramatic experience (well, Eastwood's performance keep it from becoming a full-blown one) and is a clever character study on racism, friendship and redemption. The film is pretty simple and that is the one element that made it work. Of course, Eastwood relies on his old-school tactics to generate a taut, gripping, and intense experience.

Walter Kowalski (Clint Eastwood) is a retired mechanic and who has been recently widowed. He tries to keep to himself, tends to his own property and fends off the selfish desires of his grandkids. He watches his old neighborhood and seems like the "new" generation of kids nowadays lack any respect whatsoever, and Walt falls into despair. He maintains some prejudice since his bleak days in the Korean war. Walt just minds his own business until he observes the violent predicament of a young Hmong man named Thao (Bee Vang) and he decides to intervene and drives off the gang members and Walt becomes recognized and respected in the Hmong community. He is repulsed by the traditions, but slowly he is won over through Homng cuisine and befriends Thao and his sister, Sue (Ahney Her). Now, Walter has become fond of this huge Asian family, but unfortunately, the Hmong gang situation is about to get much, much worst…and Walter is adamant on getting involved.

"Gran Torino" is simple, the screenplay by Nick Schneke is a no-nonsense, no B.S. type of a deal and may be heavily dipped in Midwestern culture. The story is about an aging ex-military man who is so set in their ways, he finds solace in his own little world, folks like this tend to keep to themselves and they try to stay away from the melting pot that develops around them. Walter's state of nature is the good old-fashioned way of American life, whose life and beliefs may revolve around seemingly outdated values in this day and age. Sure, he does have his share of bigotry but I think it is just his comfort zone and a way of dealing with the things that he has seen. The story is all about respect and finding the means to clear one's conscience. Walter has lived his life and he has nothing to lose.

Walt is one very intense individual and you can tell from the get-go that he has a major chip on his shoulder. There are very strong hints that he is not an easy person to get along with, and he has somewhat alienated himself from his family. Now, his health is slowly deteriorating and he still refuses to reach out. (why would he?) Quite ironic and not really surprising that he finds more in common with his next door Asian neighbors, who are from a very different ethnic background and old-school traditions. I think you can see that this is due to the fact that these Asian people have survived many hardships and they can understand him. His own family is basically the new type of generation, his children may have things too easy for them and his grandkids give the impression of a very irresponsible attitude.

The film does revolve around its characters, their interactions and their habits--the characters make the story in "Gran Torino". The film's dialogue is very strong and much of it does focus on Walter and Thao's relationship who develop an odd friendship after Thao had attempted to steal Walt‘s prized car; the 1972 "classic Gran Torino". Walter becomes an odd father-figure to Thao. One may also say that the car represents Walt's personality--unchanging that had stood the test of time. I do love Ahney Her's character "Sue" as she proves to be the strong anchor between her family and Walt, she does draw out the goodness within this strong-willed ex-military man.

Fortunately, Eastwood's direction doesn't go into overdrive into taking the limits of remorse, guilt and hate into account. The direction is kept very simple and it is what made it effective. I also commend the direction that while it does have a serious tone and it remembered to add subtle doses of humor. I really enjoyed the way Eastwood delivered his dialogue and you may say that he is the culmination of most of the characters he has played in the past--think an aged "Dirty Harry Callahan". His constant focus on his spitting and his quips about prejudices was humorous, and I think the direction managed to keep a clean execution throughout. The exchanges between Walt and his barber is made for pure fun, as well as Sue calling him "Wally".

"GRAN TORINO" has been unofficially promoted as Eastwood's last starring role. The film is very good, and while it may not stand as his best directorial outing, (I think "Unforgiven" is still his best) Eastwood's acting portrayal is solid and his role seemed tailor-made for his personality. The direction is brilliantly simple and avoids quite a few melodramatic pitfalls, the climax is very heavy with a symbolic gesture and some audiences may indeed see it a little too polished for a film like this. The film is satisfying enough and I rather welcome Eastwood's return to this type of role. Eastwood's "Gran Torino" isn't too concerned with making a huge mark in his resume--and maybe this is the way he wanted it. Going out quietly, with a restrained but powerful impact.

Highly Recommended! [4 ½ Stars]

poster Barber shop Walter with Thao Thao and the gang walter dispatches bullies Defending his lawn

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July 30, 2010
Yeah this was good
February 18, 2009
Letters from Iwo Jima is definitely destined to be a classic but "Unforgiven" will always be kept close to my heart. Eastwood is a great director and truly old school. I will look forward to your reviews...
July 20, 2009
Well, I told you I'd let you know what I thought when I saw it, and I just saw it last week and I really liked it a lot, though it was a bit more contrived than I expected from old Clint. Better than "Changeling" though. I'll try and review this when I get to the "Dirty Harry" series.
July 21, 2009
That's great to know. You should also check out Dave's review...he loved the film too!
July 22, 2009
February 17, 2009
I've always been a champion of Clint Eastwood, in both his actor and director capacities, and I've always wondered why it took him so long to get the respect that he deserves. Of all the films that he's directed Letters from Iwo Jima would have to be my favorite. Sometime I must get around to reviewing that film as well as the Dirty Harry and Man with No Name films. Very nicely done, Woo.
July 21, 2009
My mom and my aunts used to call him "East Clintwood"...LOL
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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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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