GRAN TORINO REVIEW
While my view might be skewed by my appreciation of Clint Eastwood both in front of and behind the camera, I feel Gran Torino is a very special film and one of the very best of 2008. There wasn’t a moment when I wasn’t completely absorbed in the story of Walt Kowalski, an angry, racist, ex-marine, recently widowed, living alone with his dog in his ever changing neighborhood now dominated by minorities and violent gangs.
When a Hmong youth next door named Theo (Bee Vang) tries to steal his prized Gran Torino car as part of a gang initiation, Walt strikes up an endearing friendship that eventually becomes father-like as it gradually changes both of them. As Theo and his sister Sue Lor (Ahney Her) are seriously threatened by these gang members Walt comes to their aid. Concerns about their safety reenergize him and he becomes determined to clean up the neighborhood. Even though the character of Walt has a lot of Archie Bunker in him, with racist jabs being part of his persona, he never seems without heart and the journey he takes from point A to Z is quite memorable as he transforms into a better person. This is a simple but very effective story and further proof that the best movies are ones with a character driven nature. I loved the experience. Director Eastwood once again uses a leisurely pace and is quite effective setting up the story’s more potent scenes of confrontation. One has to wonder if his “Get off my lawn” line will become part of our pop culture the way “Go ahead, make my day” did back in the 80’s. The film is also quite funny at times as Clint’s line delivery is dead on. It’s hard not to laugh when Walt calls Sue Lor a “zipperhead or Dragon Lady” as his attitude is so over the top it’s hard to take his personality seriously without finding humor in it.
Amazingly, Gran Torino was filmed in just six weeks. While some of the acting among the mostly inexperienced cast is suspect at times, the main supporting characters do respectable work. This, however, is Clint’s film. The Walt character is truly memorable and should go down in movie lore the way John Wayne’s John Bernard Books character is remembered for his last film, The Shootist. There is certainly one major similarity between the two characters. I give the film 4.5 out of 5 zombies. A MUST see for Clint fans.
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