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I feel like I should let everyone reading this know of my inherent bias
in favor of this film. I have seen twenty eight films from Clint
Eastwood as director and have liked the vast majority of them, and
loved a good number of them (my average rating for the 28 films is
7.9). Still, something felt off about "Gran Torino" based on the
trailer. I read it as Eastwood trying to be 'badass' again, trying to
be Dirty Harry again. "Gran Torino" is not that. Walt Kowalski may have
similarities with Dirty Harry, and could possibly be read as a
significantly older version of Harry (it's a stretch), but he is a
distinctive, memorable character on his own, and I'd go as far as
saying that it's one of Eastwood's finest performances, and one which
gives him a chance to show off his dramatic and comedic chops.
I'm not going to argue that "Gran Torino" has perfect acting from the younger supporting cast. It doesn't. In fact, some of them are downright bad at times, but the film works in spite of its flaws. This screenplay was probably written with Eastwood in mind (I am not sure of the behind-the-scenes details on this) and it shows. He captures Kowalski perfectly. The film is surprisingly humorous, something that isn't being captured well enough in advertising. It's absolutely hilarious at times (watch as Kowalski attempts to make a man out of Thao by teaching him how to talk like men do), and Eastwood handles the shifts in tone brilliantly. When the film takes a dark turn towards the end I sat on the edge of my seat in suspense, fully aware of where it was heading but still mesmerized by Eastwood's tour-de-force direction. This is an artist at his prime as an actor and as a director.
Whether or not "Gran Torino" will hold up as one of Eastwood's great films remains to be seen, and the film feels like it would be good for multiple viewings. The characterization is strong and not simplistic at all, you could argue that Kowalski is just another grouchy war vet, but Eastwood's beautiful, nuanced performance as well as some neat little touches in the screenplay (particularly towards the end) which I won't discuss in detail to avoid spoiling anything (and it's really fun to watch this movie unfold, Eastwood keeps the film moving at a wonderfully involving pace) would prove you wrong. The film works on yet another level as a deconstruction of Eastwood's image. I don't mean that as a negative, it just adds to the film's strength as a character study.
It's a more intimate film than Eastwood's other film this year, "Changeling", and also on a smaller scale than many of his other films, but it's just as ambitious in many ways. This is not a politically correct film about a grouchy old racist suddenly turning into the most tolerant person around, it is a film about a man who, near the end of his life, is forced to confront his demons, and on the sunnier side about a man who finds true friendship where he least expected it. By the end of "Gran Torino" I had forgiven any flaws it might have, and was completely satisfied with the film, which far exceeded my expectations. I have a feeling that "Gran Torino", which has already been met with strongly positive reviews (but is still being described as a 'minor' Eastwood film by some), will eventually become an especially important part of Eastwood's filmography.
As Clint Eastwood reaches the end of his life, he presents us with yet
another performance which is nothing short of legendary. Wishing to
preserve the element of surprise, I will not reveal anything by trying
to analyse this great work of art.
I will say this. There are similar qualities to his previous work, but I would say that both his directing and acting have reached a level of maturity comparable to that of an excellent wine. The story was compelling and, mixed with the drama was a refined touch of humour; the perfect combination for a pleasant evening.
I would like to finish by thanking Mr. Eastwood for sharing this touching moment with his audience at a time when most of the cinematic "art" produced in Hollywood consists of stunts and bad jokes.
I saw the film and it was unbelievable. Clint Eastwood will have you laughing so hard you almost pee yourself while at the same time breaking your heart and making you want to cry. The movie takes you on a roller-coaster ride and the entire theater stood up in applause afterward. I highly recommend this film and if Eastwood doesn't get nominated for an Oscar something is truly wrong!!! The screening I saw was held at the Writer's Guild, so the room was filled with SAG, WGA, DGA, and other industry related people who I would wage know their movies. At points the entire room was laughing so loud I couldn't hear, and then minutes later all you could hear were the sniffles from people crying. The film has drama, comedy, and action and Clint Eastwood really creates a character that you care about and cheer for...again!
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
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".
With his performance Eastwood shows you why people like himself, Jack Nicholson, or Paul Newman only come around once in a lifetime. Though Eastwood would rather focus on directing, he can still carry a movie with his on screen presence, and he's pure dynamite in "Gran Torino". Perhaps the poor box office results of "hollywoody" movies like Absolute Power, True Crime, Space Cowboys, and Blood Work, caused Eastwood to shy away from acting, but given cutting edge material to work with as "Million Dollar Baby" and "Gran Torino", he's as good as ever. His character as the racist and salty war vet makes you think of that old guy we've all had on our blocks with the garbage door open, the million tools hanging everywhere, and always fixing or building something. I found myself not wanting the movie to end because the scenes between himself and the various Hmong characters where priceless. There may be complaints over the racist remarks and scenes, but Eastwood pulls it off in a way a real person like that would talk or act to a point where it ends up being lighthearted. I'm not going to give the plot away, but if you like your Clint Eastwood as a hard-nosed tough guy with foul language alla Dirty Harry or Heartbreak Ridge, you'll love this movie!!
This is a poignant, beautiful movie, maybe the best film Eastwood has ever done. The characters are fully drawn, believable, and resonate true human emotion. I at first was put off by the idea of seeing a movie about an old racist, but when I saw the numbers of people attending the screenings, I thought there must be something there, so I went to the Arclight in Hollywood, where the theater was packed. Crusty old Kowalski, a Korean war veteran, now living in run down Detroit, hates the Vietnamese immigrants that have moved next door to him. As time goes on, he gets to know them, and the bond that forms is wonderful, and spiritual. There was not a dry eye in the house when the movie ended. I won't give the ending away, but suffice it to say this is a truly wonderful story, one that you will love and tell your friends to see. If you're looking for one of those great movie experiences that so rarely comes along, you'll not find a better film to see than this.
Gran Torino - They don't make them like they used to....
Mr. Eastwood has a knack for storytelling. Instead of being preachy or having an all to obvious agenda, he lets his viewers make up their own minds. His characters don't have a message, they have a life and make no excuses for who they are. In so many subtle and intelligent ways we are allowed to make our own choices. Like with Kowalski in the movie, you are not confronted with a role model hammering home all those "life's important messages", but rather with a movie saying "Look! This is the way it worked out for me. And I think I know a few tricks that might help you, but in the end it's your own life. However, you have to trust me when I say that there are a some things you don't want to see or experience!". Some people will leave this movie entirely untouched, others will certainly be crying their guts out. Not because some people "get it" and others "don't", but because it is a brilliant piece of entertainment reaching out to every viewer in its own specific way.
Eastwood's acting is top notch again, although the years have not been very kind to his voice. The rest of the cast are fine, but one can certainly spot their more amateurish backgrounds here and there which is the main reason why I could not give this one a 10/10.
Apart from that there is little to criticize. It's not an action movie, not a drama movie and certainly not a comedy (even though you get a few laughs out of this one). It's simply a good story about life.....and death.
seeing the trailer for this film kinda made me expect id be watching
Dirty Harry in the suburbs.
What I saw was a bittersweet superbly written, well acted story of humanity and friendship,this film is something that we can all relate to in some way, and isn't Hollywooded up in anyway, the film tells it story without any un needed hidden undertones that so many mainstream directors do to films.
Eastwood is excellent as the hard nosed war vet, and his direction is perfect as always, and supporting cast did there job just fine too
Clint Eastwood was perfect for the role and as director, as he has the knack of taking a story and making a film for the audience to get sucked into the story, and not for critics to pick apart....great film making,
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Hot on the heels of 'Changeling' Eastwood is back and as well as directing he is back in front of the camera. He plays Walt Kowalski a recently widowed ex-Vietnam veteran who harbours slight racism and bitterness which isn't helped by the changing world he now lives in alone. He has relatives but they only seem to call when they want something and his grandkids have already started deciding what they will have of his when he dies. He has a few mates he drinks with in the pub but other than that his neighbourhood is being overrun by immigrants and gang warfare. Walt's next door neighbours are a Hmong family with no father figure and after the son tries to steal his prize car, the 'Grand Torino' of the title, Walt decides to try and reform the boy and hopefully as time passes learn about their culture and change his mind before he dies. As with all Eastwood films where you begin isn't where you will end up and the story takes many turns that will test all of your emotions, I laughed, I cried and I got angry it's a real roller-coaster. But its Clint's aged 'Dirty Harry' in Walt that steals the show and anytime he is on screen he is mesmerising which means that the supporting cast members are barely noticeable. At times it plays like Lynch's 'Straight Story' with sprinkles of 'Taxi Driver' but the real beauty is in the old fashioned storytelling, something that Clint is a dab hand at, mix that with the modern day context and you have a gripping and enthralling film. It's no wonder that so many 'best of year' lists contain this film, they should, it is that good and it proves that even at 78 Eastwood is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to movies in front or behind the camera or in the case of 'Grand Torino' both.
This movie made me laugh and cry at the same time. It deals with both grimy old bastards as well as with more serious matters as racism. Good acting from Clind as well as all his supporting actors and once again Clint has shown that he is capable of making movies that involves both emotions and stereotypes! The "olidish" bitterness of Clint's character and the mix between comedy and drama is just genius. The only criticism of the movie would be that the gang-bangers were pretty and does not correspond very well to all of the reports of gang violence all around the world. But overall I thought this was a great movie with lots of potential for being one of those films that you will actually remember when you visit the video rental store in five years from now.
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