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

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

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