Published on August 30th, 2009 | by Yellow Magpie0
Gran Torino Film Review: A Must For Eastwood Fans
Gran Torino Film Review
Director: Clint Eastwood
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Ahney Her, Bece Vang, and Christopher Carley.
Here is Yellow Magpie’s Gran Torino film review.
Gran Torino is set in a downtrodden neighbourhood in Detroit, Michigan. It is here Walt Kowalski, played by Clint Eastwood lives, along with his Labrador dog, Daisy. A Korean war veteran, Walt is bitter, angry, and generally peed off with his life and fed up of his selfish and self-serving family.
An old curmudgeon, Kowalski resents the way his neighbourhood is changing, leaving him the only Caucasian living on his street. An unapologetic racist, Walt growls at his Hmong neighbours and berates them under his breath for the way they neglect their house. Meanwhile his own home is spic and span with his pride and joy, a Gran Torino, sitting proudly in his drive.
When his young neighbour Thao is forced by a gang to steal the Gran Torino, Walt sets about trying to reform him and gradually becomes drawn into the life of Thao and his family. When he chases the gang off with his rifle, growling ‘get off my lawn’, he becomes somewhat of a hero in the neighbourhood, with the residents showing their appreciation by bringing him mountains of food, despite his protestations. Thao’s spunky sister Sue Lor, who ignores all of Walt’s insults and racists comments, invites him over to a family reunion.
‘Clint Eastwood, in what is rumoured to be his last film, is brilliant as the grumpy but tough Walt Kowaslki.‘
Since it happens to be his birthday, he decides to go and in spite of himself finds he actually enjoys the day. However, while the relationship between the family and Walt blossoms, the gang continually prowl the neighbourhood, bullying Thao and threatening his sister. Things eventually deteriorate culminating in a tragedy that Walt is determined to fix.
Clint Eastwood, in what is rumoured to be his last film, is brilliant as the grumpy but tough Walt Kowaslki. He captures the character superbly bringing to life a complex personality that is blatantly racist, sad, lonely, yet funny and likable. His relationship with his new neighbours is often understandable as he watches the street where he has lived for so many years becoming more and more run down and shabby.
This is an Eastwood film in which he is the undoubted star. However, his scenes with Ahney Her are memorable, much more so than those between Thao and himself. She is brilliant as the plucky young neighbour who doesn’t bat an eyelid at Walt’s outrageous and insulting comments. Bee Vang, as Thao Vang Lor, plays his part well, but is always overshadowed by Her.
‘The forced, comedic, dialogue rings untrue and seems at odds with the rest of the film.’
Christopher Carley, plays the fresh faced Father Janovich out to save the soul of Walt. We are introduced to Father Janovich at the funeral of Walt’s wife, in which he delivers a naive and totally inappropriate sermon which has Walt cursing under his breath. Throughout the film Janovich annoyingly and repeatedly turns up and continuously gets his marching orders from Walt.
The contrast between the two characters is marked, Walt, the grizzly, tired-old-been-there-seen-that versus the innocent, still-wet-behind-the-ears-cherub-faced priest. In these scenes the viewer will be decidedly on the side of Walt, as he dispatches the priests sanctimonious meddling with a few well chosen words.
If any criticism can be directed towards Gran Torino, it is in the scene where Thao asks for a job. The forced, comedic, dialogue rings untrue and seems at odds with the rest of the film.
Despite this minor faux-pas, Gran Torino is a complex film which explores many themes. Life and death are part and parcel of life in Detroit as Walt struggles with his mortality and old age. Religion is portrayed in a Bertolt Brecht manner as being ineffective and reserved for those unwilling to take action and stand up for what they believe in. Immigration and change are shown up to be mere fear and paranoia. As Walt discovers, things don’t necessarily change for the worse, however, they do change.
The soundtrack to Gran Torino is haunting. The end track sung by Eastwood and Jamie Cullum is particularly special with a haunting reminiscence of a life near its end. It is well worth listening out for.
Gran Torino is a triumph of a film, directed by Clint Eastwood. Like the character he plays, the film is often a mixture of despair and bleakness, yet is also full of charm with some great comic moments. A lot like real life.
For people living in Ireland or the United Kingdom, you can access Gran Torino from here.
For those who live in Canada, you can obtain Gran Torino here.
For Germany: Gran Torino.
For France: Gran Torino.