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Gran Torino (2008) - Plot Summary Poster

(2008)

Plot

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Summaries

  • 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.

  • Walt Kowalski is an embittered Korean War veteran who has just lost his wife. The world has changed around him as well. His once all-white neighborhood is now mostly Southeast Asian and he has a Hmong family living next door. He doesn't get along with his sons and is out of touch with his grandchildren, all of whom seem more interested in getting his house than anything else. His pride and joy, however, is his mint condition 1972 Gran Torino. When the Hmong teenager who lives next door, Thao, is challenged by his cousin and other local gang members to steal it, Walt almost shoots him. Gradually, however, he realizes he has more in common with his neighbors than his own family and becomes something of a neighborhood hero when he prevents the gangbangers from forcing Thao into their car. He gradually takes Thao under his wing, teaching him a few things about life and helps getting him a job. Walt's intervention has a price, however, when the gang shoots up Thao's house and attack his sister Sue. For Walt, it's time to take action, though not in a way you would expect.

  • Walt Kowalski is a retired auto worker and Korean War veteran living in Detroit. Recently widowed, Walt lives alone with his dog in a crime-infested neighborhood and has a strained relationship with his family. A Hmong family moves next door to Walt but he wants nothing to do with them. One night, one of the members of the family, Thao, is coaxed by his cousin 'Spider', a gang member, to steal Walt's prized Gran Torino. Thao botches the theft after getting caught by Walt. However, the duo reluctantly start a friendship as Walt seeks to straighten out Thao. As Walt's relationship with Thao extends to Thao's family, Walt is forced to defend them from Spider and his gang who begin to routinely attack Thao and his family.

    Sam
  • Elderly Walt Kowalski is recently widowed. Much of Walt's views of life are shaped by his time in the Korean War. On strained relations with his grown sons and not wanting the advice of the priest of his wife's church, Walt is a gruff man who has few friends. As such, he lives a solitary life with his pet Labrador retriever Daisy in the same house he has lived in for years, which is located in a working class Highland Park, Michigan neighborhood. Recently, the neighborhood has gone through changes where it is now racially mixed. The Lor family, of ethnic Hmong descent, move into the house next door to Walt's, the family which includes two teenagers, streetwise Sue and shy Thao. Initially Walt wants nothing to do with his new foreign neighbors. Slowly, Walt does get involved in Sue and Thao's lives, despite Thao having once tried to steal Walt's beloved 1972 Gran Torino. That attempted theft was a Hmong gang initiation ritual, a gang to which Thao does not want to belong. Walt sees that Sue and Thao will never be able to live in peace as long as that gang exists. As his teen-aged neighbors' unofficial protector, Walt has to figure out how best to restore his sense of right in the neighborhood.

    Huggo
  • In Michigan, the grumpy widower Walt Kowalski is a Korean War veteran full of prejudice that has just lost his beloved wife Dorothy. He is one of the last Caucasian Americans in his neighborhood and does not have good relationship with his sons and their families; therefore he is a lonely man. When his teenager neighbor Thao Vang Lor is pressed by his cousin Smokie to join his Hmong gang, he is assigned to steal the Gran Torino of Walt as part of his initiation in the gang. However, he is surprised by the old man and his traditional family feels ashamed with the incident. Later Walt saves Thao first and his sister Sue Lor from gangs and he has the gratitude of his next door neighbors and the neighborhood. On the day of his birthday, Walt is invited by Sue to join her family reunion and he begins a relationship with his neighbors, helping Thao to get a job. However, he realizes that the Hmong gang disturbs the neighborhood and after a coward attack of the gangster, Walt decides to take an ultimate attitude.

  • Disgruntled Korean War veteran Walt Kowalski sets out to reform his neighbor, a Hmong teenager who tried to steal Kowalski's prized possession: a 1972 Gran Torino.


Spoilers

The synopsis below may give away important plot points.

Synopsis

  • Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood), a retired Polish American Ford automobile assembly line worker and Korean War veteran, haunted by memories of that conflict, lives with his Labrador Retriever Daisy in a changing Highland Park, Michigan neighborhood which is dominated by immigrants. At the start of the movie, Walt is attending his wife's funeral, bristling at the shallow eulogy of young Father Janovich (Christopher Carley). Similarly, he has little patience with his two sons, Mitch (Brian Haley) and Steve (Brian Howe), and their families, who show little regard for Walt's grief or the memory of their dead mother. Throughout the movie Walt views his relatives as rude, spoiled and self-absorbed, always avoiding him unless it is in their own interest to pay him some attention. Walt's sons see him as "always disappointed" with them and their families, unaware of their own obnoxiousness. Father Janovich tells Walt that his late wife, Dorothy, made Father Janovich promise to try to get Walt to go to a confession. Walt writes Janovich off as knowing nothing about life or death, and insists on being called "Mr. Kowalski" rather than "Walt" because he feels he neither knows, nor wants to know, Father Janovich.

    Walt's teenage Hmong neighbors, a shy Thao Vang Lor (Bee Vang) and his feisty sister Sue (Ahney Her), live with their widowed mother and grandmother. When a Hispanic gang confronts Thao, the Hmong gang, led by Thao's older cousin Spider (Doua Moua), helps Thao by frightening the Hispanic gang and forcing them to flee. The Hmong gang, at that point, tries to persuade Thao to join them. Thao's initiation is to steal Walt's prized car, a 1972 Gran Torino Sport. Walt interrupts the robbery, pointing a rifle in Thao's face and forcing him to flee. After a few days, Spider and his gang return. With Sue at his side, Thao manages to verbally confront them to no avail. The gang drags Thao off his porch in an attempt to assault him. His family tries desperately to fend off Spider and his cohorts. The conflict ends when Walt threatens the gang members with his M1 Garand rifle and orders them to get off his lawn. They leave the neighborhood, telling Walt to watch his back.

    The Vang Lors thank a grumpy and impatient Walt, who insists he only wanted the "gooks" off his property. When the neighborhood hears of Walt's brave act, they reward him by leaving on his porch gifts of Hmong dishes and garden plants. Thao admits to trying to steal his Gran Torino. Walt is not pleased, seeking only to be left alone. Father Janovich goes to Walt, reminding him of his wife's desire for him to go to confession. Walt refuses.

    Mitch and his wife, Karen (Geraldine Hughes) go to visit Walt on his birthday, bringing him a cake and a few gifts meant to make certain menial tasks easier. Presentation, and explanation, of these gifts quickly turn into a shamelessly brazen pitch to get Walt to move into a senior's retirement home. Knowing that Mitch and Karen just want to get their hands on his house, Walt growls in anger and throws them out; gifts, cake and all. Mitch and Karen cannot understand Walt's reaction.

    After seeing Sue being harassed by three black teenagers, Walt steps in to rescue her, confronting the teenagers and threatening them with a Colt 1911 pistol. Sue gets to know Walt, and invites him to a family barbecue on his birthday, bringing him closer to her family, explaining Hmong culture and that during the Vietnam War they fought on "his" side. Sue, Thao, and their mother visit Walt the next day, with Thao's family forcing him to work for Walt for a week to atone for his attempted theft of the Gran Torino. Walt has Thao clean up the neighborhood until his debt is paid and shows Thao the ways of American men. He gets Thao a construction job and encourages him to ask out another Hmong girl called Youa.

    After discovering blood when he coughs, Walt visits the doctor. After viewing the results of his examination, which indicate that his health isn't good, he calls his son Mitch and awkwardly tries to tell him about it; but he can't bring himself to do it and just tries to make small talk. However, Mitch and Karen say they are too busy to talk to him. Meanwhile, the Hmong gang keeps pressuring Thao to join them. When they find Thao walking home alone after work, they rob him and burn his face with a cigarette. Walt confronts Smokie, second-in-command in the Hmong gang, at the gang's house, and beats him up in retaliation. The gang returns days later and shoots up the Vang Lors' home in a drive-by, wounding Thao in the neck. Walt runs to check on them and hears that Sue, who had left for her aunt's house before the shooting, never arrived. A few minutes later another Hmong gang car drives by and throws Sue out into the street. Sue gets to her feet and walks into the house, and it's seen she's been beaten to a pulp and raped. The family chooses not to tell police who did it. Walt storms home, punching cupboards and bloodying his knuckles in anger. Father Janovich goes to visit him later, deeply concerned about both Walt and Sue. Walt gives Janovich a beer and they talk openly. Janovich calls Walt 'Mr. Kowalski,' but Walt is now open to Janovich calling him by his first name.

    An angry Thao urges Walt to take vengeance on the Hmong gang with him. Walt first tells him to come back later as revenge must be planned carefully. He tells Thao to return late in the afternoon. During this time, Walt indulges in a few luxuries. He gets a haircut, tipping the barber generously. He buys a new tailored suit. He goes to Church and much to the amazement of Father Janovich, asks to make confession. Janovich hears confession of a few minor sins and prescribes a standard penitence prayer.

    When Thao returns to Walt's house at the appointed time, Walt gives him the Silver Star medal he earned in Korea, but then locks him in the basement, saying he does not want him to live with the consequences of killing someone. Walt tells Thao about a sin that haunted him every day - killing a young enemy soldier, who wanted to "just give up". Walt then leaves Daisy with Sue's grandmother, and from a bar he often went to, calls Sue, telling her where to find the key to unlock his basement so she can let Thao out.

    Meanwhile, Father Janovich is with two police officers outside the Hmong gang house. Janovich had talked the sergeant into sending them on a stakeout, because he believes Walt will bring Thao there for a shootout confrontation with the gang. But the whole neighborhood remains quiet and the sergeant finally recalls the officers, who make Janovich leave with them.

    Sue arrives at Walt's house to let Thao out of the basement. He hurriedly explains Walt's leaving him there and they hurry off to the Hmong gang house.

    Outside the gang members' house, Walt confronts them for the shootout and raping of Sue, causing the neighbours to come out and observe the confrontation. He takes out a cigarette from his jacket, puts it in his mouth, asks the gang for a light, and then slowly reaches into his jacket before pulling his hand out quickly. Thinking Walt is going to shoot, the gang members gun him down. A shot of Walt lying dead on the ground reveals he had grabbed his 1st Cavalry Division Zippo lighter, not a gun. When Thao and Sue arrive at the crime scene, they are told by the police that the gang has been arrested and, with the rest of the community prepared to testify against them, they will be imprisoned for a long time, having killed an unarmed man. Thao, still with Walt's Silver Star pinned to his shirt, glares at Spider and Smokie as they are loaded into police cars.

    A funeral service is held for Walt with Father Janovich delivering a memorable eulogy of Walt. Thao and his family attend the funeral opposite Walt's large extended family, and Mitch is annoyed at their presence. At the reading of Walt's will, it's revealed that Walt left his house to the church, and his Gran Torino to Thao, much to the disappointment and puzzlement of Walt's family. In the final scene, Thao is driving the Gran Torino up Lake Shore Road with Daisy next to him.

See also

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