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GRAN TORINO REVIEW

gran-torino-51While 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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January 12, 2009 - Posted by | Reviews |

4 Comments »

  1. Chuck,
    The issue I had with this film is the Hmong actors’ inexperience. While I respect Clint for trying to cast authentically and his great Walt character, I can’t believe that he would do this to an otherwise great film. The acting was so bad, it often took me out of the movie. It disengaged me as an audience member. My review at thefilmnest.com gave it a 2.5/4. It would likely have been a 3.5 or better was the acting better. Good job on the site!
    Brandon aka The Rake, therake@thefilmnest.com
    P.S. – Now I am curious about this podcast you have. I will have to look into it!

    Comment by thebsk | January 13, 2009 | Reply

  2. Clint Eastwood did a great job of using his outward crankiness to come across as mean as well as somehow heroic this newest film of his

    Comment by coffee | January 15, 2009 | Reply

  3. I liked this movie – not loved it but liked it. The supporting cast didn’t bother me that much but I fear it’s only because I watched so many bad movies over the holidays, touted to be big box-office successes, that anything short of a complete disaster would have made me happy.

    Comment by annetampabay | January 15, 2009 | Reply

  4. Gran Torino is not Eastwood’s best film as director or actor but it perfectly encapsulates his onscreen persona and his brilliant directorial career. Good review, check out mine when you can!

    Comment by CMrok93 | January 26, 2011 | Reply


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