Gran Torino (2008)
Gran Torino (2008)

Genre: Drama Running Time: 1 hr. 56 min.

Release Date: December 12th, 2008 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Clint Eastwood Actors: Clint Eastwood, Bee Vang, Ahney Her, Brian Haley, Geraldine Hughes, Dreama Walker, Brian Howe, John Carroll Lynch, Brooke Chia Thao

 


 

C

onjuring up elements of both Harry Calahan and William Munny, Clint Eastwood’s Walt Kowalski doesn’t quite approach the brilliance of his previous creations. But a healthy mix of drama, pathos, and an unanticipated dose of wit results in a wholly enjoyable experience. With all the repetitive incarnations of this familiar injustice/revenge storyline, perhaps nothing new is truly offered in “Gran Torino” – but if it teaches viewers anything, it’s that no one should mess with Clint Eastwood.

Veteran Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood) is a perpetually disgruntled, ornery widower who speaks his mind, especially when it comes to his distaste for religion and his intolerance toward his Korean neighbors. When he unwittingly saves young Thao (Bee Vang) from a violent gang, after finding the youth attempting to steal his prized Gran Torino, Walt determines to reform the boy – with an unlikely friendship soon forming. But as Walt helps Thao gain confidence and a little worldly wisdom, the elder recognizes that only he can bring justice to the influential gang that continues to threaten the wellbeing of his new friend.

With a precise military snare drum accompaniment, a permanent scowl, and hilariously racist dialogue, Clint Eastwood’s Walt Kowalski is a return to the well-known, tough-guy character that audiences have come to expect from the director. And the part possesses a recognizable, strong vigilante aura that is often critical gold. Idiosyncratic and bitter, Walt is the perfect contrast for the much younger supporting characters, as well as a significant opposite for the Hmong traditions in which he interferes. The story itself is a far cry from the poignant and heartbreaking sagas Eastwood told with his previous films (“Million Dollar Baby,” “Letters From Iwo Jima,” and most recently “Changeling”), but this smaller picture clearly serves as an intimate character study. His disgust with ethnic beliefs, his inability to let go of the past and the horrible things he witnessed in Korea, and the destruction of his lawn gnomes all provoke him to embark on a mission of retribution, defiance, and principle that makes for an entertainingly cinematic journey – even if it’s one seen a few times before.

The originality of the film is minute, while the story offers few surprises, but the humor is undeniably refreshing. Walt’s attempts to teach Thao how to speak like a real man, his advice on love, and his acquisition of a construction job all provide generous laughs, right alongside the best of mentor/mentee projects (a favorite theme for Eastwood), like “Back to the Future” or “The Karate Kid.” Aside from the entertainment wrought from unpolished humor, the film’s morals and plot are admirable if tiresome, yet the veteran filmmaker still manages his flair for dramatically cathartic conclusions, prompting “Gran Torino” to finish with a sense of accomplishment greater than it likely deserves.

– The Massie Twins

  • 7/10