Gran Torino Review

Published 5 years ago by , Updated January 9th, 2009 at 8:38 am,

Short version: It’s really very simple: If you’re a Clint Eastwood fan going way back, you’re going to LOVE Gran Torino.

gran torino review Gran Torino Review
Screen Rant reviews Gran Torino

You know I’m getting pretty used to taking heat for my movie reviews, and I have no doubt that it’ll happen again for this review of the Clint Eastwood written and directed film, Gran Torino. But you know what? I don’t care, and I don’t apologize for my reviews. You may be entitled to your opinion, but you know what? So am I – like it or not. So… onward.

Gran Torino is the story of Walt Kowalski, an old veteran of the Korean War. As the film opens we see that his wife has just died, and within seconds of his appearance we know exactly what sort of character Walt is: a cranky, grizzled (and racist) old timer who despises what’s become of the people in the world around him.

He sneers at his disrespectful teenage grandchildren who show up at the funeral making jokes, texting on their phones and dressed inappropriately. The relationship between Walt and his two sons is strained at best and there is not much patience or empathy heading in either direction.

The neighborhood he’s lived in for well over 30 years is no longer populated by lower middle class white folks, but has turned into an Asian neighborhood – much to his chagrin. A Hmong family lives next door: A grandmother, single mother and her two teen kids – Thao (played by Bee Vang) and Sue (Ahney Her). Thao is quiet and intelligent but utterly shy, while Sue is very outgoing and fearless.

The local Asian gang wants to recruit Thao whether he wants in or not, and he doesn’t. Unfortunately you don’t just say “no” to a gang and being the weak fellow he is, they talk him into trying to steal next door neighbor Walt’s mint 1972 Gran Torino. Walt stops him but Thao gets away unrecognized.

Soon the gang is back one night to forcibly take Thao with them, and Walt comes out with his 50 year old rifle and chases them off. Eventually he learns that Thao was the boy who broke into his garage, and reluctantly takes him on to work off his bad deed (at the urging of Thaos’s mother).

Eventually Walt sees the good and potential in Thao and takes it upon himself to show him how to be a man and try to help him steer clear of the gang.

Eastwood is just great to watch in this film – he has the greatest snarl in this movie, and he uses it often and to great effect. He’s totally convincing as the retired old war vet who’s seen it all and is pretty much afraid of nothing. As a matter of fact at one point in the film I actually decided that this was basically another Dirty Harry film, much like last year’s Rambo – revisiting a familiar character after many years in order to show us what happened to him.

Of course he wasn’t really Harry Callahan, but it didn’t take much of a leap to swap characters and end up with pretty much the same movie. The way he confronts trouble is awe-inspiring. In particular there’s one scene (that ends up very funny) where he comes up against three African-American men who are harassing Sue – it’s classic.

Now, I’ll tell you – there’s nothing “cinematically amazing” about this film. No “cutting edge” direction or camera angles or visual effects or anything else. What you have is Clint “I’m still a bad ass at 78″ Eastwood, great characters and a great story. Depending on how good or bad I consider a movie, when assigning it a “score” (which I’m regretting more and more these days – people get caught up in the numbers) I go one of two ways:

  • If it’s awful, I start at zero and start looking for worthwhile things about it that will add “points.”
  • If it’s great, I start at the top and look for things that maybe didn’t work here and there and deduct from there.

In this case I started at the top, but I couldn’t think of anything that I didn’t like about the film or struck me the wrong way – so there you have it: 5 out of 5 stars from me.

Now yes, of course… Walt is a racist, hurling every sort of ethnic slur you can think of – but the point is that he learns to look past his prejudices and sees people for who they are, not for their race or heritage. And if you’re a long time Clint Eastwood fan based on the hard-edged character he played back in the Dirty Harry and spaghetti western days you’ll really enjoy this.

On the other hand (and I know I’m generalizing) if you’re on the young side, you’ll probably think he’s a cranky old bastard and what’s he getting so fired up about.

There is plenty of foul language in the film and violence as well – It’s rated R, so leave the kiddies at home.

Our Rating:

5 out of 5
(Masterpiece)

TAGS: 5 star movies, gran torino

81 Comments

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  1. I thought it was irreverent of Clint to compare himself to Christ though.

  2. @Stella

    Nice eye for detail, I totally missed that.

    Vic

  3. Jerry

    What does that have to do with acting? That’s a really ignorant thing to say.

  4. That is one sexy old man.

    (Clint Eastwood. Not you, Vic. Sorry.)

  5. As well as, maybe, irrelevant? I didn’t catch that either. What I thought was Walt knew he was going to die anyway. He could have blown the 5 gang members away. He had the skills. But it was much classier to have caught them the way he did. He did die, in order to save the Hmong family. It was beautifully done and, like most really good or even great movies, will take a lot of thinking about, later.

  6. Actually, I think that quote is one used a lot by military men. Well, the way I know it is “Greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for a friend.”

    But I don’t remember specifically about the positioning and the cross thing.

  7. My wife and I both enjoyed this movie.

    A few points.

    1. If you look at the supporting actors by themselves, then they were not bad. If you compare them to the brilliant preformance by Clint in this, then yes, you will be disapoitned.

    Possible spoiler ..
    2. There was 1 scene that I could not justify. It made no sense and goes completely against Walts character at that point in the movie. The priest comes to talk to Walt it the bar and Walt agrees with very littel fuss. This was my only gripe.

  8. @ Sharp

    Walt doesn’t actually “hate” the priest, he just has the overwhelming need to be a pain in the arse. That’s his character. He opens up to the priest several more times after that scene. It did take the priest several tries before Walt would even speak to him, plus he caught him in a good mood, right after drinking some beers and telling racist jokes with his buddies… :-)

  9. Spoiler alert.I liked this very much. I think Walt’s use of racial slurs in the film is important as it shows his transformation. Not that he totally abandons his racially suspect point of view, he doesnt have time, but that he at least grows to see his neighbors as humans and friends. This makes sense when we learn what really has troubled him all of the years. His racism was really a way for him to bury the empathy he had for those he had killed in Korea, which he only comes to terms with in his final hours. I think the scene with the padre in the bar does make sense. After a few drinks Walt was loose and more open, and of course we do learn that he does carry a burden around that he wants to unload but his macho rascit exterior front puts a wall around these feelings.

  10. “We live in more of a p*ssy generation now, where everybody’s become used to saying, “Well, how do we handle it psychologically?” In those days, you just punched the bully back and duked it out. Even if the guy was older and could push you around, at least you were respected for fighting back, and you’d be left alone from then on.”

    - Clint Eastwood

    Where I live (Scotland) it’s still very much like that, except we’re more and more being cruficied by the PC Mafia.

    And this film rocks, expecially Clint!

  11. I absolutely loved this movie! Clint hit one out of the park and this movie makes this prior USAF vet (F) proud to be an American! This will appeal to both men and women. Heavy language, unbelievable plot… I sobbed at the end. I hope this movie wins tons of awards!!!

  12. i feel so alone, and almost bad about my opinion of this movie, but here it goes. I didn’t really like it. I had been looking forward to seeing it for like a month, and it just didn’t do it for me. The dialogue (both in language and presentation) was kinda mediocre (not that the racial slurs bugged me at all, they were important to his character, i just mean the script and dialogue just kind of rambled on), and a lot of the possible dramatic effect, i felt, was lost in the music (or lack thereof), which consisted mostly of a military drum (not counting the awesome theme at the end, of course). Clint Eastwood’s acting was probably one of the only things that kept me from writing it off completely, he can still pull off being the ultimate badass just as well as he could 40 years ago.

  13. Two more things; one, i forgot to mention the ending, which was one of the better IDEAS to a movie i’ve ever seen, but could have been done better; and the supporting cast had exemplary effort, but you could tell they were pretty nervous with Clint, which is totally understandable of course, seeing as it’s their first or second movie for most of them. they were just noticeably, very tense

  14. A fantastic movie indeed.

    One warning to all to be had: DO NOT GO SEE IT WITH CO-WORKERS… if you have an image to uphold that is!! LOL. Wow.

    It had a “powerful” affect on me.

  15. @Dylan
    I’ve read other reviews like yours. Although I liked it, I can see why others might not.

    I’ve also been in the minority here and as long as you are not insulting anyone, you will always be welcomed.

  16. I just got back from watching this movie at the theater. We completely enjoyed it! I came home to read some reviews, expecting some uproar about racial slurs, and I stumbled on this site. This is good stuff!
    I want to comment on the negative comments about the young supporting actors. I think they did a great job in their roles. Those characters live next door to Walt – not Clint. Walt is a crude, angry, and usually somewhat intoxicated Korean War Veteran, who mutters about swamp rats, spits, and carries firearms. Shouldn’t they be a little hesitant or reserved while getting to know him?
    Also, am I the only one that thinks this film is funny? Maybe it’s not PC, but I sure laughed a lot along with the reality of it.

  17. I laughed all the way to the 3/4 point of the movie when “it” happens to “that character” (don’t want to spoil anything) and from that point on I was boiling with anger… But not at the movie, in a “OMG I hope those gangbangers’ heads explode” kind of way…

  18. I meant until “it” happened, I didn’t laugh WHEN that thing happened, I hope nobody thinks that, I just realized how it sounds the way I typed it!!

  19. Who ever gave this film 5 stars is having a laugh. So what does city of god get, or blood in blood out, american me. Some movies the time just flies, and some you keep checking the counter to see how much time is left, this was the latter. Strange clint eastwood film, i like all the others.

  20. A fantastic movie indeed.

    One warning to all to be had: DO NOT GO SEE IT WITH CO-WORKERS… if you have an image to uphold that is!! LOL. Wow.

    It had a “powerful” affect on me.

    I LOVE CLINT EASTWOOD.

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