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)

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TAGS: 5 star movies, gran torino

81 Comments

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  1. Ken J

    Right on man, MK is still, I think, the best video game movie. Plus the music is ridiculously good.

    Griffjc

    I felt the same, only for some reason it bothered me more than it usually would have. The girl, I thought, mumbled and slurred her lines enough for me to notice.

    But Eastwood makes up for it. His “reaching into my jacket for a gun” was badass. His interactions with the gangs was awesome too.

    It’s just the boy and the girl that bummed me out.

  2. Okay I loved the movie. Clint, great job!

    However, I agree that the supporting cast didn’t hold their weight against Eastwood. The girl played by Ahney Her in my opinion was more bearable than the boy played by Bee Vang. There were moments where the acting was just too overdone. They seemed to be trying too hard. One moment that strikes me is when the boy is beating on the gate after Walt locks him up. I just can’t believe such a large reaction. As ogb said…there were definitely parts where I cringed a bit. There were also moments that really struck me. Those moments alone make me understand the 5/5 and I definitely say everyone who is a die hard Eastwood fan must go see Gran Torino.

  3. The Best Movie I have seen in a while. He is the man.

  4. Oh and just to clear things up I’m not bashing on the supporting cast but just as a comparison…go on imdb.com and you’ll find that this is both Vang, and her’s first screen performances. They have a long career to hone their acting but they’ve only just begun. Just when they’re put up against Mr. Eastwood, to my eyes, there was a noticeable difference in screen experience and this led to the cringing.

  5. This movie was fantastic. Although the supporting cast was a bit choppy, I felt they didn’t take away from the brilliance of the movie. Clint Eastwood certainly outweighed any of the actors flaws with various one liners; all of which were badass.
    Whoever is planning on seeing this movie is in for a treat.

  6. I agree 100% with the review, I also think the young asian actors were fine. I know a few kids just like them that are quiet and shy, unsure of themselves and acting a little stand offish around somebody like Walt. this movie will get many awards and maybe some flak for the racial comments, but that needs to be there to make it and the characters real.

  7. I just got back from sitting Gran Torino and I thought it was fantastic!

    It’s refreshing to see a movie that isn’t full of the far left’s propaganda.

  8. This was by far one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. Just got back from watching it tonight and I want to go back and watch it again!

    Maybe our culture wouldn’t be going to ..poop.. if we had more people like Walt around.

    Harden up.

  9. This is why I love Eastwood (quote from a recent interview):

    “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.”

    “I don’t know if I can tell you exactly when the p*ssy generation started. Maybe when people started asking about the meaning of life.”
    - Clint Eastwood

  10. @ogb

    Here you go:

    http://screenrant.com/clint-eastwood-man-figuratively-literally-vic-4839/

    :-)

    Vic

  11. Hippie movement.. they had children and then more of them popped out.. then liberals emerged.. Enjoy the next four years!

    I am ashamed to be labeled as the “p*ssy generation” like many posters had mention because I am in that 20 group generation which is full of boneless panties–and it scares me. No one has a backbone anymore. We have to worry about people’s “feelings” and not come off as “racist”.. It is ridiculous! No wonder our country is falling apart. We need more people like Walt.

  12. Vic

    Thanks.

    Emmy

    I’m with you. I’m 23 and from Russia. In Russia, no one talked about their feelings, depression, etc. Came here and people are so free with their emotions and feelings that sometimes it’s just too much. BTW, I’m not being Anti American, just saying that Eastwood NAILED it with that quote.

  13. ogb, don’t be sorry! It is true and it is tearing our country apart. I thought it was an AWESOME quote like many throughout the film.

  14. Yah ogb, I love it when people tell me that I have to feel compassion for criminals because they might have had a bad childhood… Come on, how many people have bad childhoods that DON’T turn to a life of victimizing innocent people? There’s no excuse. That’s why when I hear on the news about a would-be robber being shot dead by the victim, it puts a smile on my face. Chaulk one for the good guy. Of course the news rarely wants to report on that, even though lives being saved through self defense happens every day, they only want to report when an innocent person dies. Don’t understand why that is… Stupid biased p*ssy generation news…

  15. Lol right on guys, I don’t want to sway this discussion away from the movie, but you guys are right, I don’t watch network news because of this. Can’t stand politics etc. Life is simple. Politics, religion, etc. just complicate things. I’d rather focus on stuff that really matters.

    Anyway, I’m glad this movie came out and I hope Eastwood doesn’t REALLY retired from acting (or directing) because his movies always strike a chord (if that’s the right expression) about important issues.

  16. Well, I HATED Mystic River and Letters from Iwo Jima is a VERY inaccurate portrayal of the Japanese in WWII. I know people will say it was based off of letters from actual soldiers. But what do you expect soldiers to say in letters back to their loved ones? “Oh, we beheaded an entire unarmed farming family in the last village we pillaged, and guess what, I’m sending home two of the little Chinese girls we captured you can pimp out for extra cash. Can’t wait to be home, but have another village of unarmed civilians to butcher, those babies are not going to impale themselves on bayonets themselves!”

    But I like most of the other movies he’s been involved in so far.

  17. I hear ya, but I never look at realism of movies, it ruins them, for me it’s always fine if it’s in the relam of possibilities.

    I LOVED Mystic River and thought Iwo Jima was okay, nothing special.

    I do think he’s just as talented as a director as he is an actor

  18. I liked the movie a lot. I’m a big fan of Eastwood the actor but think he’s a bit overrated as a director. My main complaint about his recent work would be the cardboard cutout nature of his third tier characters. The barber, the priest and his eldest son don’t ever feel real in this movie. The barber sits alone in his shop, and seems to be just waiting for his scenes. He seems to have no other customers and you wonder how he stays in business. When Walt goes to the church the priest is walking around the church reading his bible. It is really noticable that no thought goes in to making these characters seem real. They are like bad AI characters in a role playing game just waiting for you to activate them. I found it really distracting. How hard would it be to have the barber and priest finishing up with other customers when Walt arrives?

    I HATED Million Dollar Baby, not because of the controversial ending, but because of the over-the-top cartooniness of Hillary Swank’s family, and the predictable sub-plot of the kid in the gym.

    All that being said, Grand Turino is a really good movie. Fans of Eastwood should not be disappointed.

  19. I love this movie. I went with someone who is the same age as Clint Eastwood (I am 33) and it is amazing how we walked away with a completely different view of the film but both liked it. I think there were very poignant scenes and this is definitely a film where you will both laugh and cry. Definitely a coming of age story for Tao and a reflection on life for Wally. I can’t stop thinking about this film. I hope it brings Eastwood a younger audience and fan base because he is surely one of the greatest!

  20. Loved it! Clint was fabulous! I agree, maybe the supporting actors weren’t that great, but Clint for sure made up for that! He’s such a great actor. It was funny, exciting, and nervous. I can’t wait til it comes out on dvd. I want to own a copy! Clint definitely deserves an award for his role. And this movie deserves the 5 stars!

  21. I absolutely loved this movie. Simply put – classic Eastwood.

    I disagree with people saying the supporting actors were bad. @ogb – I don’t see how the supporting actors could have made you cringe when you love VanDamme movies. I’m not trying to be disrespectful to you, I enjoy VanDamme movies as well. But I actually think his acting is crap in a lot of his movies, and it could be argued that it’s actually worse than this supporting cast. I had a much easier time believing in these supporting characters than the majority of VanDamme’s characters.

  22. @TY

    I always said it was my opinion. I can go into why they made me cringe, but those reasons have been explored in other reviews. They are just not good actors. They are believable as kids, but to me it seemed like they took these kids off the street and put them into a movie to act next to Clint Eastwood. And that’s actually true; it’s the 1st/2nd movie for most of the (main) supporting cast. I think they overwhelmed these new actors with the material. This movie required some serious acting talent which they just don’t have (yet?). The girl did a very good job on the “rape” scene. But the reset of the movie she was unnatural; the “wise cracking” lines they gave her felt forced. Same with Tao, it all felt forced to me with exception of few scenes.

    As for Van Damme, his movies never require great acting. The stories are about fighting, shooting, action, etc. He’s always convincing as a guy who can fight, shoot, etc. He’s an action guy in action movies, always believable always convincing (at least in my eyes).

    And you should really watch JVCD. Van Damme shows that he can actually act (I kid you not).

    Again, this is my opinion, but I did feel rather strongly about the acting of the supporting cast. The movie and Clint himself made up for it in the big picture.

  23. I am seeing tonight. Josey Wales and Pale Rider are among my favorites of any actor. I appreciate all of the respectful banter. I look forward to the movie more now that I’ve read all of the posts. Thanks Vic and the rest!

  24. Being from Detroit, I have to say that Clint Eastwood was a complete summary of all my uncles, cousins, etc. that have ever worked on an assembly line. Crusty, foul-mouthed, insulted everyone, glaring…on the outside. That’s how they survived. Strike first, so no one would know that you had a soft side. On the inside, you would never find more soft, compassionate, loving, dedicated to family and friends men. The writing in this movie and Eastwood’s portrayal of these men was dead-on. Made me think of an entire generation that is gone. Where to be insulted by these men was actually an acceptance. And once they insulted you – they would give their life for you. And I have seen the criticism of the supporting cast’s acting – guess what…when you are face to face with a crumudgeon…you do look down – you are startled by their attitude. It’s intentional and I found the portrayls (sp?) very real.

  25. Clint Eastwood used his outward crankiness to come across as tough and yet also heroic at the same time, well done i’d say

  26. This movie was great. It told a good story and was not what I thought it was going to be. This movie is now the number 1 movie in my top 5 Clint Eastwood movies.
    The acting by Clint was great. He basically took all his tough guy characters,used them to make this character real. The other main actors did a good job. I know that if my first or second movie was to work on a Clint Eastwood film, I would probably stink. Clint Eastwood has set himself apart for all the other action heros making movies during his day.

  27. A really great movie. Those who think the supporting cast didn’t do a good job probably have not spent much time around SE Asians. The supposting cast was spot on.

  28. i Loved it,GReat Review,Vic.
    Laugh’ed so much at eastwood’s
    gumbly-Racial Quips.

  29. Why didn’t anyone get the last message of the movie as Clint lies on the ground? “Greater love hath no man than he who lays down his life for another.” The biggest hints were the priest and then the last shot was of him as Christ was on the cross!

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