Anthony's Film Review
Gran Torino (2008)
Clint Eastwood stars in and directs this memorable story about cross-cultural friendship...
In my opinion, Clint Eastwood is amazing. As a director, he often works on films whose characters come to life with raw emotion. A great example of this is Mystic River from 2003. When Eastwood himself steps in front of the camera as an actor, he captivates the audience with a memorable on-screen performance. I especially love it when he does both for the same movie. Million Dollar Baby from 2004 worked well because of that.
Now he stars in and directs Gran Torino, another strong piece of work in his filmography. This film portrays Eastwood as a bitter racist Korean War veteran named Walt Kowalski. Before I mention the plot, I would like to mention how I'm glad Eastwood is the star. Despite his age, he still possesses great acting talent. As Walt Kowalski, Eastwood portrays a cruel and disturbed man. It's the kind of role he is known for.
The film opens with a funeral for Walt's wife followed by scenes that compares two different houses. One house is well maintained and has a nice lawn in front. This is Walt's house where he and his family are gathering after the funeral. Next door is a house with chipped paint and dying grass in front. Inside, a Hmong family has a ceremony where a shaman is blessing a baby. At this time, the two families are carrying on with their lives, keeping only to themselves.
Walt spends the following days alone and finds himself sneering at the sight of his neighbors. He eventually faces a culture clash. Thao, the innocent teenage boy of the neighboring family, is pressured by his gangster cousin to steal Walt's precious car, a 1972 Gran Torino. Thao's attempt is unsuccessful, but Walt takes notice. When Thao is attacked by his cousin's gang, the fight moves to Walt's lawn. That's when the old man comes out with a rifle and, in a moment harkening back to Dirty Harry, viciously tells the gang, "Get off my lawn!"
From there, it becomes a story of friendship that crosses an age and cultural gap. Walt reluctantly teaches Thao some discipline and lessons about life. It is definitely a touching story. Nevertheless, Walt is fighting his demons during interactions with his family, Thao's sister Sue, and a priest named Father Janovich. The old man can still be unfriendly and nasty. Expect to see his dark side fully manifest itself during the film's most intense situations.
All of this leads up to the finale, which I consider the best part of the movie. This is where Walt engages in a memorable act of bravery, sacrifice, and redemption. I found it interesting in that I made a certain prediction before this moment. It's a prediction that the story led me towards. Once the moment arrived, I nodded in satisfaction. It was not what I expected, but what I saw made a whole lot more sense and was probably the best way to wrap things up.
Gran Torino is a movie that definitely works. Although I would not rate it as high as Mystic River, which I think delivers a truly emotional punch, I would still place it as high as Million Dollar Baby, a very good film. The film's only flaw was the inexperience of the first-time Asian actors. It's forgivable since everyone of them still delivered decent performances. When seen as a whole, Gran Torino is another achievement for Clint Eastwood, proving that the latter part of his career could still go strong.
For more information about Gran Torino, visit the Internet Movie Database.