Clint Eastwood, director, serves Clint Eastwood, actor, a nice fat one, a softball lobbed right down the middle of the plate and effortlessly belted over the fence: a sort of Grumpy Old Man version of Dirty Harry, a scowler and a growler (looking and sounding uncannily like a dog in defense of a T-bone), a new widower who has seen his Detroit neighborhood taken over by Hmong immigrants (“HUM-mong,” in his two-syllable pronunciation), a hard-ass retiree defined by a pair of prized possessions, the M-1 rifle that commemorates his service in the Korean War and the ’72 Gran Torino that commemorates his life’s work on the Ford assembly line. The character’s blatant bigotry toward his Asian neighbors, whereby he runs through every applicable epithet in a thesaurus of slang (past “fishhead” and “gook” all the way to “zipperhead”) is somewhat problematic. Eastwood’s endearing presence in the role automatically takes the edge off the racism in a way that just wouldn’t happen if the role were occupied by, say, Gene Hackman, Rip Torn. And taking the edge off the racism is not altogether a good idea, regardless how many laughs you get out of it. What ultimately redeems him and his film is not the conventional, formulaic, soft-hearted and simple-minded warming of relations with the two weakly acted Hmong teenagers next door, and not the tighter focus of wrath on the Asian street gang that’s terrorizing the neighborhood, and not even the expediently plotted climactic act of karmic restitution (which in honesty had slim chance to work out as planned). No, none of that. What redeems him and his film, lending it, for all its entertainment value, a sense of gravity and personal conviction, is simply its place in line in his ongoing penance for the offhand violence, the incalculable casualties, of his earlier career: its place behind Unforgiven, A Perfect World, Mystic River, etc. Once was not enough. It was not just lip service, like an obligatory number of Hail Marys after a long-postponed trip to confession. It was, so it would appear, a genuine conversion, a revelation. This stands as the further proof of it, and further refinement of it. With Bee Vang, Ahney Her, Christopher Carley. (2008) — Duncan Shepherd
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Looking at the title of this movie, I thought this was going to be a softball Clint Eastwood effort; I mean, the title just sounds so "B Movie". However, it is far from it; directed by Eastwood and look out. It isn't in the realm of "Million Dollar Baby", but it sure isn't "Any Which Way But Loose". The story is contemporary, funny, introspective, and has many moments of poignancy. You get a tiny glimpse inside an Asian culture. You also get a big look at a man and an actor in the twilight of his life and career, doing it the Eastwood Way; going out not with a whimper, but a bang. Those with sensible language issues beware; this one is fully loaded, but it's within the context of the character. Nice story, great entertainment, lame title. At least he didn't call it "Any Which Way But Gran Torino".
I went to an early morning screening of Gran Torino. Most of the others at the show were seniors like me. The preview of the film looked like a cross between "Dirty Harry" and an Eastwood revenge spaghetti western. But the film was much more than that. Eastwood is a 78 year old wonder. Most people his age are watching movies in an assisted living facility, not directing or starring in them as Walt Kowalski, Korean War vet, and good ol beer drinking, American bigot. The movie is a brilliant metaphor for social and personal change through the eyes of someone Clint's age. There are several classic Eastwood lines as mouthed by Kowalski, some uncomfortably funny, but all true to character and what one expects from Clint. What isn't expected is the surprising but satisfying ending. Eastwood also directed "Changeling" with Angela Jolie this year. This is one american icon you'll never see in a Viagra commercial.
I thought it was great. One of the best movies of the year. You have to like Clint to like the movie. If you're not a fan don't go. But if you like Clint being Clint, this is a great ride. An old school guy finding common ground with a very new generation in a changing world.
If Gran Torino is to be Eastwood's final acting role, he went out on a high note. The title holds a powerful symbolism; a man's life work turning out American muscle. Walt Kowalski, the stoic xenophobe, gives the world the finger as everything he values is ripped away from him and the world he once knew is swallowed up by change. He can point to only that stone cold beauty in his garage and say, "I made this. I can count on this. I can count on me. But that's all.". The character transformation is incredible: the curmudgeon opens up to the Hmong family next door, and a touching pathos allows him to do for an earnest young man and woman what he could not for his own children. In the end, Walt still does things his way, and takes care of business.
Mr. Kowalski. The American bigot's hero. Good film. I was pleasanlty surprised with Eastwood's performance and the story. I don't think he deserves the Oscar (as he thinks he does) but he put out a good effort and if it is his last film then he went out on a high note. The movie was a lot more humorous than I expected it to be, due mostly to Eastwood's racial slurs and witty bantering with his fellow white male friends. The relationship he develops with his Hmong neighboors is funny and uplifting; perhaps giving hope to the rest of us that we can all just get along despite our differences.