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Gran Torino
11 reviews

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Movie Details

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Directed By
Clint Eastwood

Written By:
Nick Schenk, Dave Johannson

Clint Eastwood, Geraldine Hughes, John Carroll Lynch, Cory Hardrict, Dreama Walker, Brian Haley, Brian Howe, Christopher Carley, Jerry Lee, Sarah Neubauer, Rio Scafone, William C. Fox, Tony Stef'Ano, Doua Moua, Choua Kue, John Anton, Ramon Camacho, Arthur Cartwright, Lee Mong Vang, Nana Gbewonyo, Brooke Chia Thao, Michael E. Kurowski, Elvis Thao, Austin Douglas Smith, Sonny Vue, Arthur Cartwright, Anthony Moscato, Bee Vang, Ahney Her, Chee Thao

Gran Torino (2009)
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Movie Review by Eric Somer
January 17th, 2009


As a summary of John Wayne's screen persona, Don Siegel's THE SHOOTIST (1976) speaks volumes. With GRAN TORINO, Siegel's frequent 1970s star has produced and directed a similar career evaluation and, perhaps, offered his concluding performance. Like John Wayne's John Bernard Books in THE SHOOTIST, Clint Eastwood's Walt Kowalski has remained the same man while the rest of the world has changed around him. Also like the Books character, Walt is terminally ill and recognizes he has one last chance to do something important. In both films, the lead protagonist comes to mentor a young man in need of a male role model. In the process, the hero renounces his violent past.

But unlike the small town in which THE SHOOTIST unfolds, where some logical advancements are in progress, Walt's urban world has gone completely to hell. Much like Travis Bickle in TAXI DRIVER (1976), Walt blames everything wrong with the neighborhood on the proliferation of minorities. While Walt maintains his property dutifully, his Hmong neighbors let their homes go. He despises the neighborhood "gooks," especially those who have taken up residence in the dilapidated home neighboring his. Worse still, Walt's family continuously disappoints him, especially his worthless granddaughter, who sports a naval ring to her grandmother's funeral service. Walt's prize possession is his 1972 Gran Torino, which he helped assemble during his long tour of duty at Ford Motor Company. The classic musclecar stands as an avatar for Walt himself. Like Walt, it mostly sits idle these days, but is still capable of erupting when properly motivated.

Not exactly a completely likable individual, Eastwood's Walt could just as well be Sergeant Thomas Highway from HEARTBREAK RIDGE (1986) after 22 years and countless six-packs. Reminiscent of Highway's often bitter train of thought, Walt doesn't have much use for the younger generation. As young folks are depicted in GRAN TORINO, there is much to be concerned about when it comes to today's youths. According to Eastwood, young people without tough mentors are doomed to fail. After some hesitance, the mentor figure played by Eastwood finds something worth fostering—a trait common to his characters in HEARTBREAK RIDGE, MILLION DOLLAR BABY (2004), and now GRAN TORINO. Walt's time has passed, but his values (at least some of the better ones) are passed on to Thao (Bee Vang) and his family. Interestingly, it takes a strong young woman to bridge the old school with the new. That young lady is Thao's sister Sue (Ahney Her in a fine performance), who looks past Walt's constant racism, sexism, and general cantankerousness.

Working on location in metro Detroit, Eastwood again refrains from anything pretentious in his direction, an admirable predisposition of his that allows the viewer to gradually forget about the presence of the camera (handled by longtime Eastwood associate Tom Stern, Malpaso Productions' principal cinematographer since 2002's BLOOD WORK). I think in time this will be considered one of Eastwood's finest achievements as a director of himself.
--Eric Somer, 1/17/2009

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Jan 18, 2009 10:55 AM
You know I didnt think about that when watching...but your right this could have easily been a sequel to Heartbreak Ridge. Except they would have had to bring back Stich Jones....lol
Eric Somer
Jan 18, 2009 12:20 PM
The Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla: 'Stitch' Jones!
Jan 18, 2009 3:15 PM
you know i was going to put that but was not going to even ATTEMPT to spell "ayatollah" haha

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