Gran Torino (2008)
Rated – R
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Bee Vang, Ahney Her, Christopher Carle
A little heavy handed at times, Gran Torino is a film that tackles racism, vengeance, and redemption. It was penned by newcomer Nick Schenk, but the man of the hour is the legendary Clint Eastwood. This is his second film of the year and his first acting performance since 2004’s Million Dollar Baby and there’s one thing certain: this movie couldn’t have survived without Eastwood.
He breathes life into his character, Walt Kowalski, who is a foul-mouthed, old-fashioned, beer-drinking, racist old man who keeps to himself and doesn’t want anyone around. The film begins when Walt’s wife has just passed away and therefore the only things he cherishes are his dog, Daisy, and his 1972 Gran Torino. He’s a man who is still living in the past while the world is rapidly changing around him. He scowls at the wasteful youth he sees. As a soldier who fought in the Korean War, his hard-nose attitude is what usually gets him around his Detroit community until he begins an unlikely relationship with his Hmong neighbors.
Gritting his teeth and growling instead of speaking, Walt imposes intimidation on his friends and family, who are few, but not on the bright and lively next door neighbor, Sue. After Walt scares off a local Hmong gang, his neighbors and the community see him as a hero. Soon after, Walt opens up to Sue and her brother Thao and establishes a bond with them when he realizes they need a little help and guidance.
Sequences follow that are predictable and cliché up until the film’s stunning conclusion. The role for Walt must’ve been specifically written for Eastwood because I can’t imagine any other actor playing the part. It’s been said that this would be Eastwood’s last acting role ever. Well if that’s true, then there’s no better character for him to end his career than Walt, who is an embodiment of his past characters.
Gran Torino is a triumph for Clint Eastwood and a very moving film. The issues of racism and America as a melting pot are evident, but the storyline of Walt’s reconciliation will truly capture your attention.