Release Date: December 12th, 2008
Click Here for the Gran Torino Trailer.
Walt Kowalski(Clint Eastwood) is a grizzled Korean War Vet living the a run down neighborhood in Detroit. Bitter at everyone around and mourning the death of his wife, Walt's only pleasure in life is the racial remarks he makes with his friends about everybody around. After his wife's death, Walt finds a new person to make fun of, the priest at his church Father Janovich(Christopher Carley). Father Janovich became close with Walt's wife in the months before she died. It was her last wish, entrusted to Father Janovich, that Walt go to confession. However, Walt doesn't much like the idea of confessing to an "over-educated 27 year old just out of his seminary". But Father Janovich is persistent, and visits Walt on a regular basis, continuing to witness to Walt while learning from him as well.
Walt is bitter at everything; his spoiled sons Mitch(Brian Haley) and Steve(Brian Howe) and his spoiled, vain grandchildren Ashley(Dreama Walker) and Josh(Michael E. Kurowski) as well as the abundance of Hmong immigrants that have invaded his neighborhood. Walt does his best to avoid his neighbors at all cost, but when his neighbor Thao(Bee Vang) is attacked by his cousin "Spider"(Doua Moua) and his gang for failing their initiation of stealing Walt's mint 1972 Gran Torino and refusing to go along with them, the fight spills onto Walt's lawn, something Walt does not like at all. Walt goes out with his M1 Grand from the war and scares off the gang members. The next day, Walt's worst nightmare comes true, all the Hmong neighbors on the block, believing Walt to be a hero for saving Thao, are showering him with customary gifts from their heritage. Walt wants nothing to do with any of them and does his best to keep away from them. But when Walt sees Thao's sister Sue being hassled by three black teenagers, he steps in to help, pulling a gun on the teens and putting Sue into his truck and taking her home. Sue isn't like the other Hmong immigrants. She laughs at Walt's racial remarks and cracks jokes and snappy remarks back at Walt, which slowly begins to grow on Walt.
When Sue invites Walt to a barbecue at her house, Walt decides to go, enticed by the free beer. Walt, despite despising the Hmong immigrants, is starting to come around. He still cracks his racial remarks, but doesn't hate them as much as he used to, except for Thao, who he thinks is worthless and dumb for trying to steal his car to be in some gang. But even Walt starts to come around on Thao when Thao's mother makes him work for Walt to repay him for trying to steal his car. Walt then becomes like a father figure to Thao, teaching him about cars, tools, and earning your living, even getting him a construction job. When Thao is mugged and burned by a cigarette by his cousins gang, Walt decides to take action. He goes to the gang member's house and beats one of them up telling them to stay away from Thao and his family. The gang retaliates by doing a drive-by shooting on Thao's house, wounding Thao. Sue returns later, beaten and raped. When the neighbors refuse to talk due to their strict heritage and way of life, the gang gets away with it. Walt has had enough. Thao urges Walt to take him to the house so they can both retaliate for what happened to Sue. Walt tells Thao of what it is like to kill a man, and the horror it brings on someone. Walt locks Thao in the basement, keeping him from harm. he then calls Sue and tells her where Thao is and how to get him out. Walt then proceeds to "Spider's" house. Walt's final confrontation leaves you with a surprising ending that you wouldn't expect from Walt, but one that ultimately leaves you applauding.
O.k. so I don't know if this movie was intended to be funny, but I definitley thought it was, mainly because of Eastwood's performance as the disgruntled, racist old man. Eastwood's character was that cliche old American vet, he loves his country, his flag, and doesn't much like seeing the foreigners moving in on his "turf". Eastwood goes behind the camera and in front of it again in this movie, starring in it and directing it. Eastwood proved he was an incredible actor from his earliest movies like The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and showed that he had the chops to be a director with his movie Million Dollar Baby which won four academy awards, including the Academy Award for Best Director.
This movie was just good. From seeing the first preview, with Eastwood confronting some black teenagers, I was sure it was another Dirty Harry movie. Eastwood's performance was brilliant. What I most liked about his performance was the way he delivered his lines. He spoke with this very grizzled, almost growling voice that was very intimidating. Yet his voice was also a bit humorous. When he gave some of his racist remarks in his voice, you couldn't help but laugh, but I'm pretty sure that was the intention of Eastwood. But the story is where this movie really gets you. It is a sort of "redemption" story in the way that Walt is saved from his lonely, bitter way of life and finds forgiveness and peace from the things he did in the war, which were the things that were really haunting him. It is also a story of enlightenment. You start off with a racist, foreigner-hating Walt, and by the end of the film, you have a Walt that finds Thao and his family closer than his own flesh and blood family. This is a cinematic work of art. It does what I think a lot of movies these days are missing, depth and substance. With movies like Dance Flick and My Bloody Valentine its good to see a movie that can appeal to people who are mature enough to not be amused by the mundane, cliche antics of some movies these days.
Eastwood does it again with Gran Torino. It is gripping, dramatic, has a great story, great acting, and an ending you can not help but be shocked at. I give Gran Torino 9 Racist War Vets out of 10.
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