Reviews

Gran Torino

3

Clint delivers one for his fans.

“Ever notice how you come across somebody once in a while that you shouldn’t have messed with? That’s me.” That’s scowling, growling Walt Kowalski.

He’s a retired Detroit autoworker. He’s a Korean war veteran. And he’s Clint Eastwood’s first big-screen role since Million Dollar Baby. But really? He’s The Man With No Name. He’s Dirty Harry. He’s William Munny. He is Clint Eastwood.

Named after the 1972 car that Walt built himself on the now-defunct Ford factory line - it sits on his driveway like a gleaming symbol of the past - Gran Torino is a fully fuelled vehicle for its star and director to deliver a 10-gun salute to every badass he’s ever played.

Big veiny arms. Skin you could make a satchel out of. Teak-tough hands that could crush your  skull like a grape. Clint Eastwood is 78. They don’t make men like they used to. And, like so many of the men Clint’s played in six decades on screen, Walt is a man from a bygone era.

Sitting on his porch with a beer and a dog, guarding his homestead like an Old West frontiersman, Walt is annoyed by everything and everyone... His two doughy, middle-aged sons driving around in Japanese cars.

Their wives trying to convince him about the benefits of going into a retirement home. His brainless, self-absorbed teenage granddaughter obliviously texting her way through his wife’s funeral.

But mostly, it’s the Asian family who live next door. The Hmong are Laotian immigrants who fought on the US side in Vietnam.

To Walt, they’re the same “jabbering gooks” he killed in Korea. Yes, Walt is a spectacularly unapologetic bigot. He plain doesn’t like “zipperheads”, “slopes” or “chinks”.

But then, he doesn’t like anybody. And it’s incredibly funny. “Get... Off... My... Lawn!”  he snarls, branding his old M1 rifle as young thugs break one of his garden gnomes. Brilliant.

“We used to stack fucks like you five-high in Korea and use you for sandbags,” he rumbles, shoving the barrel into
a gangbanger’s nose. Superb. “I’ll blow a hole in your face and sleep like a baby.” Fantastic!

Believe it or not, as Walt becomes a reluctant - and unexpected - neighbourhood hero by saving the family next door from local gangsters, Gran Torino isn’t actually the comedy-racism film of the year.

Well, OK, maybe it is that too. But mostly, it’s a generic, enjoyable drama about Walt’s grudging, growing friendship with quiet, fatherless Hmong boy Thao (Bee Vang), incessantly badgered by his cousin’s gang to join them, and his sassy teenage sister Sue (Ahney Her), herself a victim of harassment on Detroit’s very mean streets.

As storylines go, this is older and craggier than even Clint himself. The children thaw out the racist’s heart. The old man discovers he really likes Asian food. Aww...

Taking a tender but over-obvious tilt at racial prejudice, debut screenwriter Nick Schenk’s script etches broad characters, brims with heavy-handed drama and spells out what it doesn’t need to.

At one point, Walt even stares into the mirror to ponder, “I’ve got more in common with these gooks than I do with my own family.” Despite his Korean war psyche-scars, he’s a caricature searching for depth that isn’t there.

So why does Gran Torino never slide into self-parody? Because bizarrely, it’s also disarmingly earnest, exploring the themes of vengeance, violence, hollow heroism and past that have fascinated Clint for decades.

Because Eastwood himself is irresistible and immense in every frame. Because even the self-serious final showdown in which Walt kills his demons and finds salvation feels like a symbolic farewell to the American icon’s urban-avenger persona.

Sure, this is no legacy-capper like Unforgiven. It won’t add to his two Oscars for Best Director. And it’s riddled with
- and let down by - some of the creakiest, most awkward acting you’ll ever see in a major Hollywood film.

But Eastwood makes it greater than the sum of its flawed parts – there’s something here that matters way more than his glossy award-baiter Changeling. Rolling patiently along, Gran Torino isn’t one of his best films.

Not even close. But it might be one of his most personal, most enjoyable and most important.

Jonathan Crocker

Verdict:

Clint’s own raspy warbling of the self-penned end-credits song could be the last we ever hear of him in front of the camera. So you can get as much or as little as you want from Gran Torino. It’s a movie for Eastwood fans. Which should mean it’s a movie for you.

Film Details

User Reviews

    • Nealsreviews1

      Feb 13th 2009, 20:14

      4

      Clint Eastwood is known for playing the classic antihero that we all love in Gran Torino he’s no different. Eastwood redefines what it is to be a grumpy old man here with his trademark Dirty Harry snarl & grunts. Walt Kowalski is a marine veteran & retired auto worker & an unapologetic bigot. Who just lost his wife while his discontent for society grows stronger so does his alienation from a world literally becoming foreign. Walt spends his time tending his house in a Detroit suburb, drinking beers, & cleaning his most treasured posession a vintage 72 Gran Torino which he helped assemble at Ford plant where he used to work. He’s the only white man in a neighborhood filled with Asians, Hispanics, & African-Americans. Walt hates all - he despises his own family as much as the trash as he puts it that pollute his street. One night in a twist of fate Walt catches the son of his neighbors trying to steal his cherished car. Instead of hurting the boy or calling the police Walt decides to protect him from the gang bangers that forced him into robbery. The boy in gratitude agrees to work for Walt doing odd jobs & they form an unlikely bond. The storyline is predictable the characters all too familiar but you can’t help to watch Eastwoods charisma he radiates on film & is very believable in this character. Neal Damiano Film Journalist

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    • avfc4eva

      Feb 14th 2009, 15:20

      5

      In my top 3 movies of the year. Clint Eastwood at his very best.

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    • rorschach

      Mar 2nd 2009, 0:03

      4

      Just 3 stars?..then again i notice Mr Hicks also gave The International 4 stars so i guess theres no accounting for taste

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    • tommy7uk

      Mar 4th 2009, 21:20

      5

      One of the most enjoyable films I've seen in a long time. OK there are predictable parts to it but this is what going to the cinema is all about, a great viewing experience.

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    • LiamEB

      Mar 6th 2009, 17:47

      4

      Saw it last night. Lived up to my expectations. Clint's acting is top notch. Definately one of his best performances. Clints character is expertly made as well as the story. There is some creaky acting but thats not such a problem with Clint there. One scene that did annoy me was the last scene. One question, has there been any film ever with as many racist insults as this? I just can't wait till his next film. Hopefully this isn't as he says his last acting role

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    • joker16

      Mar 8th 2009, 15:01

      2

      This and Slumdog Millionaire are the most overrated films of the year. Clint is great in it but he is overshadowed by the unwatchable performances of the korean actors. There scenes were so annoying that I couldn't enjoy the film. Also, could the film get more predictable ? And the bit about the korean kid with the medal in his shirt at the end ? Oh please! Changeling was worlds better.

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    • SexandHotCoffee

      Mar 8th 2009, 15:48

      3

      I agree with Hicks, the movie was typical of clint, corny lines and a pathetically heart-warming story. the trailer was enough for me.

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    • sickchainey

      Mar 12th 2009, 2:39

      This movie is oustanding even for world famous director Clint Eastwood. This is a must see if you are a Eastwood fan of any age.

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    • sickchainey

      Mar 12th 2009, 2:39

      4

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    • Phoenix81

      May 7th 2009, 13:54

      4

      Really good film, both touching and disturbing - Well done Clint!!

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      May 21st 2009, 17:35

      4

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    • zakmccormack

      Aug 11th 2009, 23:17

      5

      I don't rate and review many of the films I see but I was so amazed by this one I just had to say what I thought. How can it only recieve 3 stars? The end was so powerful and emotional, Clint Eastwood was brilliant throughout. After watching it for the first time it has now become one of my favourite films!!!!

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    • district9

      Aug 25th 2010, 16:34

      5

      One of Clint Eastwoods best films. Uncomparebale

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      5

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