Gran Torino begins with a sobering scene of Korean War veteran Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood) standing behind his wife’s coffin as mourners arrive at her funeral. He’s not a happy man, not merely because his wife has passed, but because he sees the indifference, the lack of old fashioned respect in his grandchildren. He sees his own sons who he doesn’t really know, and possibly most of all; he’s uncomfortable in church.
Church was the crutch that his wife used and has no place in his life.
Walt sees the world through a very racist, un-PC, but definitely black and white point of view. He puts his faith in only what he knows to be true.
Being a veteran of the Korean War, Walk has some very big ghosts in his past, and one thing that really irks him is to see the neighbourhood being taken over by gooks. But then one night the local Asian gang is beating up on his neighbours kid, the struggle moves onto Walt’s front lawn, which annoys Walt so much that he grabs his rifle and forces the gang to flea, in the process becoming an unintentional hero to the neighbourhood.
Now with the local Asian community bringing him gifts and his wife’s priest persistently visiting him, Walt slowly begins to give in to the inevitable and begins to allow relationships to be built, and in the process becomes a father figure and role model to the neighbours kid.
Of course the local gang is still a problem, and this is ultimately something Walt has to deal with before the end of the movie. Along the way, his black and white views are splintered into various shades of grey as Walt examines himself and finds the need to accept the cultural diversity of modern life, recognise the role of the church in the community and most importantly, forgive himself and let go of the demons of his past.
Some might say that Clint Eastwood is a bit long in the tooth to still be making and starring in movies. Some would even say that Gran Torino drags on and takes too long to reach its destination. However I think that Clint has a remarkable story to tell, one that deserves the time and attention to build it’s characters and allow them to grow.
It’s no Hollywood action franchise, but it hooks you in and embraces you as you travel along its path. You know instantly where the path is going to lead, but you’re never quite sure just what flavour the destination will be.
Visually the movie seemed to be a little to muted in its colour scheme. This could have been a visual reference to old-fashioned values, or it could have just been the shocking quality of the DVD screener I watched.
Some viewers might have issues with the high prevalence of racial slurs in Gran Torino, for me this was just part of the reality of the story, and one of the most telling sub plots was the lack of old fashioned respect that society seems to have. It’s a compelling commentary on how we might be raising our own children.
Reviewed by: Jonathan Read
Rating: [R16] Contains violence and offensive language.
Released on: June 11th, 2009
Year of Original Release: 2008
Stars: Clint Eastwood, Bee Vang, Ahney Her, Brian Haley, Geraldine Hughes, Dreama Walker, Brian Howe, Christopher Carley, John Carroll Lynch, William Hill, Brooke Chia Thao, Chee Thao, Choua Kue, Scott Reeves, Xia Soua Chang
Length (Minutes): 116
Media Format: DVD
Aspect Ratio: 1.78 : 1
Supported Audio: Dolby Digital Surround 5.1
Director: Eastwood, Clint