Walt Kowalski is a widower who holds onto his prejudices despite the changes in his Michigan neighborhood and the world around him. Kowalski is a grumpy, tough-minded, unhappy old man who can't get along with either his kids or his neighbors. He is a Korean War veteran whose prize possession is a 1972 Gran Torino he keeps in mint condition. When his neighbor Thao, a young Hmong teenager under pressure from his gang member cousin, tries to steal his Gran Torino, Kowalski sets out to reform the youth. Drawn against his will into the life of Thao's family, Kowalski is soon taking steps to protect them from the gangs that infest their neighborhood. Written by
Another top-notch, Clint Eastwood film that entertains and teaches.
Manohla Dargis writes in the New York Times: "Dirty Harry is back, in a way, in "Gran Torino," not as a character but as a ghostly presence. He hovers in the film, in its themes and high-caliber imagery, and of course most obviously in Mr. Eastwood's face. It is a monumental face now, so puckered and pleated that it no longer looks merely weathered, as it has for decades, but seems closer to petrified wood. Words like flinty and steely come to mind, adjectives that Mr. Eastwood ... expressively embodies with his usual lack of fuss and a number of growls." More praise for Eastwood comes from Joe Morgenstern in the Wall Street Journal, who comments: "No one makes movies like Gran Torino any more, and more's the pity. This one, with Clint Eastwood as director and star, is concerned with honor and atonement, with rough justice and the family of man. It raises irascibility to the level of folk art, takes unapologetic time-outs for unfashionable moral debates, revives acting conventions that haven't been in fashion for half a century and keeps you watching every frame as Mr. Eastwood snarls, glowers, mutters, growls and grins his way through the performance of a lifetime." Elizabeth Weitzman in the New York Daily News remarks that "it's clearly a career-capping work." Kenneth Turan in The Los Angeles Times writes that the movie "is impossible to imagine without the actor in the title role. The notion of a 78-year-old action hero may sound like a contradiction in terms, but Eastwood brings it off, even if his toughness is as much verbal as physical. Even at 78, Eastwood can make 'Get off my lawn' sound as menacing as 'Make my day,' and when he says 'I blow a hole in your face and sleep like a baby,' he sounds as if he means it."
There are at least four reason why I like this film: 1. Clint Eastwood shows that the character he is playing is willing to serve in a war-- and die if necessary--to preserve freedom (and he has a medal to prove it), 2. he has grown old and the whole world has changed (and everyone around him seems to indicate--in one way or another--that he is no appreciated or needed), 3. even with a transformation, he demonstrates that people tend to be reactive--rather than responsive--and are slow to change (this is particularly true with bias, discrimination, and prejudice), and 4. that tolerance can lead to understanding (he tries to give tough love, but he becomes softer in his response--instead of his reaction--after giving and receiving genuine love). It seems that everyone around him wants his Gran Torino and everything else he owns, before he even has died, instead of being interested in him. He lives in a community that is transformation, and he knows absolutely nothing about culture, diversity, ethnicity, race, or sexual orientation. He does know about aging, however (if nowhere else, he learns about it from people's adverse and negative reactions, everywhere around him). He isn't exactly treated with dignity and respect, so why should he treat anyone else with dignity and respect? And, trust must be earned.
If this is Clint Eastwood's last film, I can only say that that his performance, in this stunning film, is what legends are made of. There are some wonderful performances in "Milk" (Sean Penn), "Australia" (Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman), "Changeling" (Angelina Jolie and director Clint Eastwood), and "The Dark Knight" (a riveting performance by "Brokeback Mountain's" Heath Ledger). In viewing all of these films, there are performances that are not only superb, but they evoke every one of the emotions and carry the intellect and intelligence of human cognitions to the highest pinnacle of excellence. As a gay person, I must say that I am moved by Sean Penn's portrayal of Harvey Milk, I am moved by the romantic chemistry between Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman, and I would be remiss if I did not mention Angelina Jolie's flawless and moving performance. But, I give the top honor to Clint Eastwood for giving us films that educate and entertain. And, "Gran Torino" (2008) is no exception. One cannot walk away from a Clint Eastwood film, without saying that they haven't learned something, or without saying (just like the legendary Ethel Merman used to sing) 'there's no business (quite) like show business'. I rank "Gran Torino" (2008) a 10 out of 10. Clint Eastwood's performance is more than another version of 'Dirty Harry'. In fact, his portrayal is reminiscent of the Paul Newman character in "Nobody's Perfect".
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