10 January 2009 @ 22:17Gran Torino (2008) review

Gran TorinoGran Torino. Wow. An amazing film. Go see it. Clint Eastwood is impressive.” #

Those were my words as the final credits rolled for Gran Torino, and after some time, I still feel exactly that way about Clint Eastwood‘s latest acting and directing endeavor.

Gran Torino opens with Walt Kowalski at his wife’s funeral. He shows practically no emotion during the funeral until he sees his granddaughter enter the church with an exposed bellybutton and piercing to which Walt gives a little growl.

Even in the opening scenes we can see that Walt can best be described as a mean, old man. It isn’t until we see Walt’s interaction with his barber that we start to see that maybe his foul attitude is simply a thin facade which he has put up to distance himself from his somewhat unlikeable family. Sure, Walt is definitely far from perfect — he’s a racist and very outspoken — but his attitude is not an uncommon one for his generation. Underneath his thorny exterior, Walt Kowalski actually has a heart.

The title comes from Walt’s pride and joy, a 1972 Gran Torino. As part of a gang initiation, the neighbor boy attempts and fails to steal Walt’s Gran Torino. From this point on, Walt begins to get to know his Hmong neighbors and learns that he has more in common with them than with his own family.

Gran Torino is simply “Clint Eastwood’s movie”, both literally and figuratively. This movie would have failed miserably with any actor besides Clint Eastwood playing the Walt Kowalski character, a character who has some similarities to ‘Dirty’ Harry Callahan. In his role as Walt Kowalski inGran Torino, Eastwood showed tremendous range in his acting, and I would say he put on one of his most memorable performances.

John Carroll Lynch, who only has a couple scenes as Walt’s barber, also gave a fine performance and takes part in one of the more humorous scenes in the movie.

All the Hmong characters in Gran Torino were played by actual Hmong actors who had never acted before. I didn’t realize this until after the movie. I know that there are people who will disagree with me on this, but I felt like most of the acting was surprisingly good for first-time actors (with the exception of maybe one scene). If you are one of those who agrees with me, then you might say that this is largely due to the great direction provided by Eastwood. Of course, if you disagree with me, then that argument fails.

Gran Torino is rated R for language and violence. There is some violence, but probably nothing more than you might see in a PG-13 movie. The rating is probably based mostly on the language.

I highly recommend that you see Gran Torino. It will surely be one movie that I will add to my own growing collection.

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