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Yet another Eastwood gem
ametaphysicalshark15 December 2008
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.
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Clint Eastwood shows you why he still should be in FRONT of the camera
woljm4516 December 2008
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!!
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Amazing Film...Eastwood deserves an Oscar!!!
bill259410 December 2008
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!
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An absolute cinematic gem!
CinemaAddict12 December 2008
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.
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Eastwood excels at storytelling
Kevin-4214 December 2008
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.
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Another top-notch, Clint Eastwood film that entertains and teaches.
Len987613 December 2008
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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Clint is the best director in Hollywood and still one of the great actors
Scott13 December 2008
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,
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One of the best movies I've seen in years
williamzim200013 December 2008
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.
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Great whether in front or behind the camera.
come2whereimfrom15 December 2008
Warning: 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.
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Clint's best performance since Million Dollar Baby
Kristine22 March 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I saw Gran Torino opening weekend and after hearing rave reviews, I was looking forward to it. After seeing it, I realized what people were excited about, it was Clint's performance, this is a man you do not want to mess with. He's the perfect good guy with a bad guy's lust for vengeance. I love his growls, he sounds like a great guard dog, I would love to just have him by my door if a salesman comes by to make that noise. I can't believe what a triple threat Clint is: he's a writer, director, and an actor, not to mention that he's great at all three of them. He presents Gran Torino with grace and style of an old man that society has forgotten about because of his bad mood not realizing that deep down, he's truly a good man.

Walt Kowalski, a retired Polish American Ford automobile assembly line worker and a Korean War veteran, lives with his dog Daisy in a changing 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. Similarly, he has little patience with his two sons, Mitch and Steve, and their families, who show little regard for Walt's grief or the memory of their dead mother. Walt's sons see him as "always disappointed" with them and their families, unaware of their obnoxiousness. Walt's teenage Hmong neighbors, a shy Thao Vang Lor and his feisty sister Sue, live with their widowed mother and grandmother. 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, who fought in the United States Army's 1st Cavalry Division, 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.

After seeing Sue being harassed by three black teenagers, while her "date" cannot help her, Walt steps in to rescue her, confronting the teenagers and threatening them with a 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. Meanwhile, the Hmong gang keeps pressuring Thao to join them. But when he refuses, the Hmong gang goes too far in getting their revenge leading to Walt wanting more than punishment, he wants justice.

I highly recommend Gran Torino if you get the chance to see it, it has terrific performances and a touching story. I'm really surprised that Clint didn't get more recognition for his strength in Walt, he became that character and I loved how he protected the family that he once hated. It was wonderful to see all these characters develop and grow together, they had great chemistry and made this movie into a great one. I think down the line, Gran Torino is going to be considered a classic, this is a terrific movie and deserves it's praise.

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Not Among Eastwood's Best
nanturn31 August 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Although I am a big fan of Eastwood and have enjoyed most of his films, I found Gran Torino to be overly sentimental and I'm confused by the high IMDb rating. The plot thread is almost banal - why would the tough Asian gang devote so much effort in pursuit of the teenage boy who did not want to be a member? and lacked credibility - the sick old man was able to intimidate these gang members? and is too familiar - hardened racist comes around, honorable man sacrifices his life for justice and absolves himself of past sins through his last actions on earth, etc., etc. And I disagree with the comment that viewers were permitted to 'make up our own minds'. In this film, the moral of the story was in the viewer's face and an emotional response was overtly solicited. Compared to Unforgiven, a film that was both powerful and subtle, and avoided obvious moral judgments, Gran Torino is an amateurish piece.
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A great feel-good movie with both comedy and tragedy at the same time
olofsson50113 December 2008
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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Sour Humour and Pure Badassery
Simon_Says_Movies27 January 2009
If movies like Indiana Jones, Iron Man and The Dark Knight were the thoroughbred hits of 2008, then Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino is the dark horse. This rousing crowd-pleaser is sure to surprise many, through its copious sour humour and pure badassery, while managing to still be an affecting and sombre dramatic entry in Eastwood's long-enduring and wildly successful career in front of and behind the camera.

You know that a movie has something going for it when it can a) pack in so many one-liners you can't bring yourself to remember them after the show from oversaturation of the brain, b) be unboundedly racist yet still never seen exploitative or condescending and c) make a pure, grit- and-nails, grimacing anti-hero, one man army out of a seventy-eight year old man. What is likely to surprise the most number of viewers is how funny this movie really is. Eastwood's direction and line delivery as a diamond-hard antisocial veteran is bang-on, but never makes the film into a farce or embarrassment. This is due in part to the handling of the more touching dramatic moments which anchors the film in reality and reminds us of what is at play, so to speak.

Following the death of his wife, Walt Kowalski (Eastwood) has nothing left but his dog to truly be with. His two sons and their families drift in and out, but Walt's less then cheerful demeanour and their impartiality keeps them in different worlds and in different times. Walt is peppered by visits from Father Janovich (Christopher Carley) of the local church at the request of his late wife to 'keep an eye on him', but has little place for religion on his heavy conscience; about as much time as he has for his new Hmong neighbours that move in next door. That is until the family's youngest son Thao (Bee Vang) begins to be harassed by a local gang who persuade him to steal Walt's prized Gran Torino as initiation. Saving Thao in an ensuing altercation, Walt sweeps the fatherless teen away from the pressures of the criminal life and puts him to work at the request of his mother. Thao and his sister Sue (Ahney Her) befriend Walt in a way, and for a reason none can truly explain.

All of the Hmong actors in Gran Torino are pure novices who have never acted before and this is readily apparent. While a weak link, the film as a whole is so satisfying it is really a moot point as it serves as no thorough determent. The arc of Walt is simple and easy to predict, but then anything but would not work. Many scenes with the cultural clashes are funny and touching as with an unspoken dynamic with the elderly grandmother of the Lor family next door. A number of exchanges between the few remaining people in Walt's life who he still respects such as his barber and a construction worker who gets Thao a job, are nothing short of comic genius and piece the Walt character into a true three- dimensional individual.

With a great song by Jamie Cullum to conclude the film (which stands as a horrendous Oscar snub, equalled only by the additional snub of the Bruce Springsteen Song from The Wrestler), Gran Torino is a pure gem; a film that both draws unexpected laughs, soft smiles and tears from an audience that is happy to oblige, as well as salute a screen legend in another iconic role that proves even at an old age a dark horse can still kick you in the face.
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Clint Eastwood Closes Out His Career With A Bang
alexkolokotronis6 January 2009
My expectations coming in to see Gran Torino were very high and it certainly did not disappoint. Of course Clint Eastwood reputation has only gotten even better since his recent success as a director but this time it his performance that leads the way.

Clint Eastwood had if not the best performance, one of the best performances this year. His performance was vivid and magical to watch. Vivid may seem like a head scratcher of a word to use but his way of displaying his maliciousness, antisocial and cynical attitude to the many people around him including his family. Yet over the course of the movie his attitude changes towards a Hmong family who are his neighbors. When one of the boys (Thao) from the neighbors' attempts to rob him of his Gran Torino, the family sends him to work for Walt (Clint Eastwood) as punishment. While Thao works for Walt, Walt begins to form a protective fatherly type bond over Thao. In this way as well Eastwood's performance is very vivid showing how his cold bitter attitude can transform into a very warm selfless demeanor towards one family.

Gran Torino was also written and directed very well. Especially since a relatively unknown cast played to beyond anyone could have expected. Some how Clint Eastwood manages to continue to maximize the potential of the material he is given.

This was a very heart-warming film in my mind throughout. The ending of the film is probably more of an ending to Eastwood's career as an actor rather than that of the movie itself. It does not leave him in the place he is looked at as a vigilante but rather in the place of the man that stands up for his morals and for the people he is loyal to.
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Didn't make my day
GManfred17 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I am a Clint Eastwood fan, but not lately.He has decided to reveal a human side of himself - went to the Wizard and acquired a heart. He also revealed he is a wooden actor and a plodding, predictable director. Gran Torino is uninteresting at best and tedious at worst,worse even than Million Dollar Baby,and contains some of the worst actors ever subjected to the silver screen. I did enjoy the Christ-image at the end as he is sprawled on the lawn,which was an unintentional touch of humor. He says he is going to continue directing pictures and maybe next time he could hire a professional screenwriter.

Speaking of directing, the Directors of the IMDb website should monitor entries more carefully.Currently, Gran Torino has an 8.5 ranking, which is a travesty.Since this puts it in with some mighty good movies,modern filmgoers obviously haven't a clue regarding what makes a good picture.Perhaps a separate category could be designated for films made after,say,1980.That might separate the film lovers from the dilettantes.
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Mainly for Clint Eastwood fans
machngunjoe7 July 2009
Despite all the rave reviews, which I don't understand, I didn't think this movie was made very well. It was mainly the acting and the writing. CLint Eastwoods performance was great, but everybody else was bad. From the Young preacher to the main Hmong characters the acting was forced and you could tell that all these people had never done a movie before, which according to IMDb is mostly true.

Right off the bat you saw the actor who played the preacher was of considerably less caliber than anyone else in the scenes. The Hmong actor during a climatic scene with Clint Eastwood seemed fake, forced and just not very good. Again if everybody was that bad maybe no one would have noticed but they were up against a veteran actor, so it was quite noticeable.

The writing was a little empty and it didn't take a guru to see right through the plot.

I know Clint Eastwoods movies are plain movies, usually low budget, with fresh new actors, and simple plot lines, with the exception of his latest WWII movies and Mystic River. Although the revenue must be very high for this movie cause I'm sure it was dirt cheap to make considering all the aspects, but this certainly isn't a must see even if it is his last acting movie.
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Overly Didactic and Not Terribly Realistic
davesteele-milwaukee27 July 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I'm from the industrial Midwest, and I've known a lot of Walt Kowalskis. Grizzled, white ethnic old-timers who are not PC, whose cars are their first love, and who bemoan the loss of "their" neighborhoods, and "their" city. I've also known a fair number of kids like Thao, Hmong-American kids trying to make it in a world their parents do not understand. I've known neighborhoods like Walt's: neighborhoods in transition that show signs of decay, but are still lived in and tended to by hard working old timers like Walt and their hard-working immigrant neighbors, whom they don't understand and paint with a broad brush as "the other." I was excited to watch Gran Torino because of the rave reviews and its portrayal of this world of which I am so familiar. Sadly, while I appreciated the premise, and was happy to see so many Hmong actors in Hmong roles (rather than "professional" non-Hmong Asian actors playing these roles), the movie came up short. I found the dialogue and characters to lack credibility, and the plot too cliché-ridden to be taken seriously.

The theme of death and rebirth, brought to us mainly through the fraught relationship of Walt and the young priest, had all the subtlety of a sledgehammer(Did Walt HAVE to come to rest in a Christ-like pose after the shooting in the last scene?! Puh-leeeze.) The "death-as-sad-and-happy" thing just never really connected with the larger message of the movie of "learning to love thy neighbor."

I will cite one example of a relatively minor scene that illustrates this movie's larger problems: In real life, white boys who try to be "down with the 'hood," don't say "it's all good, bro!" to some gangbanger they don't know after said gangbanger hits on their girlfriend. Maybe in a movie like "Strait Outta Malibu" could that scene have worked, but in this context it was ridiculous and totally not-believable. This seemingly minor miscue threw so much of the movie off, because we're forced to conclude from it that Sue's boyfriend is mentally ill, and if that's the case, what does that say about Sue herself, who is one the most important drivers of the plot? Overall, this film suffers from too many cliché characters and too many cliché plot points to really be anything more than an average movie. Which is a shame, because it could have been so much more, and was a great opportunity for the wider world to get to know the Hmong people and their story.
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bigots and other clueless folk in the audience will not "get" this flick
alerter14 December 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Now I understand why Clint Eastwood took over the directorial reins for Changeling from Ron Howard. (Howard dropped Changeling in order to make Frost/Nixon, instead.)

Eastwood did an excellent job on Changeling, with a genuine feel for the dark subject matter, and guided Angelina Jolie to one of the best performances of her career, to date, significantly expanding her dramatic range.

The film that Eastwood really wanted to make this year, GRAN TORINO, was greenlit by that other deal. This is crucial, since all of the Hmong cast are first-time actors, who were hand picked by Eastwood from cold auditions. Any film with a cast of unknowns can be a tough sell in Hollywood, even with Eastwood helming and starring. (The list of award winning Eastwood films that almost didn't get made is long and very distinguished.) In casting, Eastwood didn't want "thespians." He wanted an honest exactness of performance.

While I really like and respect Changeling, I found GT to be far more satisfying. GT is probably *not* the best film of this year, but it is one damn fine entertainment and it fully holds its own in this rich season of films that are up for awards contention.

GT is an humorous and compelling meditation on the themes of ubiquitous bigotry, culture clash, political refugee immigration/resettlement (and, by way of that, US foreign policy) and Old School, Doing the Right Thing (vs today's more commonplace "situational" ethics). All of this rolled into two, parallel, coming of age stories, served on platters heaping with very real slices of life. The messages crack like jabs, with the sting of truth, and are never too preachy. (Eastwood is one of the few directors who respects the intelligence of his audience. He surprises film goers, always, without ever talking down.)

One coming of age story involves a neighbor kid, Tao Vang Lor (played by Bee Vang), a dirt-poor son of divorced Hmong immigrants (Vietnam war political refugees).

Tao lives with his mother, sister and grandmother, next door to Walt Kowalski (Eastwood). Walt insists upon calling Tao, "Toad" (initially, with some good reason). Tao's sister, Sue, (a scene stealing Ahney Her), is spontaneously outgoing and engaging with Walt, and confides to Walt that Tao is growing up without any proper male role models in his life. In fact, Tao is in the midst of confronting the grim prospects of either being recruited into his bad-seed cousin's gang or becoming a permanent victim of said 'bangers.

The less obvious coming of age story revolves around Walt Kowalski, a recently widowed Korean War veteran. Walt's Polish ancestry seems to serve no purpose other than to establish him as "ethnic" white, living in a dog-eared neighborhood of ongoing immigration stories. Walt is a curmudgeon, who lacks basic "people skills" with even his own family, let alone the world around him. But he has managed his way though life, fine enough, up to the opening of the film's story.

Just about every review I've read about GT describes Eastwood's Kowalski as a "racist Korean War veteran," which misses one of the major points raised in the film -- that bigotry in the US is deeply ingrained in every niche of society. None of us is innocent or absolved of anything in this regard and the film is very frank about this point. Initially, this serves as nothing more than a source for shock humor, but Eastwood finds a way to subvert this into a message of tough-love hope.

The gang life incursions into the story are very true to life. Gangs are always either recruiting new cannon fodder or marking new victims. If parents seeing this film had no clue about this, they ought to start finding ways to open up ongoing lines of discussion with their kids about what's really happening, day-to-day, at school, in the playground and elsewhere. Most of the time, kids like Tao, just internalize all of these pressures, hoping that they won't be picked on, and otherwise feeling powerless. None of us should ever kid ourselves about *all* kids, not just some kids, being "at risk."

(As for the non-white, poly-ethnicity of Kowalski's part of town, the disbelievers of the authenticity of that have only been exposed to the rarefied 'hoods of mainstream Hollywood. I can name any number of mid-to-small cities/towns where the exact mix and flavors in GT are very real. You don't have to live in a 'hood to pass through and/or stake out an occasional corner on which to hang. The Latino and black "presence" in the film never implied that they lived in that neighborhood, although they were obviously trolling for victims. Perps who don't intend to be caught *rarely* hunt in their own backyards.)

Walt knows that he's dead set in his ways, not all of them "bad," but not most of them "good." Beyond the confines of his own property line, Walt may be a little more effective than Tao, out in the real world, but, he too is, in many ways, powerless to change the way most things are. Nevertheless, in getting to know Tao, Sue and the extended Hmong community to which the Lors belong, Walt discovers that his Fort Apache ways don't work anymore. Walt realizes that he has yet to finally come of age, too. (Some will call this "atonement." I call it "growing up, again, at 78." Both are spot on.)

This film will make you laugh. It may even make you cry. But it might also make you think about some stuff you thought you were long ago done with thinking about.

People at the screening I attended were so startled at the end that there was a significant moment of silence before applause finally broke out.

GT is another lovely present from Clint Eastwood. Don't miss it.
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Nothing Special
park_christian16 August 2009
I've seen a number of Clint Eastwoods films, and although he is an excellent actor/director, this particular film lacked anything that could be considered as cinematic specialty.

The story is mediocre and the choice in actors were "okay" at best. The acting and the script didn't seem to come together well, and there was a lack of passion. Basically, it seemed like the actors were acting, like they WERE reading a script and not completely immersed in their roles.

I'm not saying it was a bad movie, i just mean to say it wasn't a GREAT movie. I was very surprised to find this title in one of the top 250 IMDb movies.
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Uneven movie
anton_malmberg3 July 2009
I saw this film a couple of days ago. Clint Eastwood does (as always) an amazing job on the screen. Sadly he is also almost the only one with a major part doing a good job. Most of the conversations are awkward and very stiff. I actually had to turn away a few times because the situation became so very embarrassing. Sadly, Clint Eastwood is the only one on screen that keeps you from not walking away from it. Bee Wang and Ahney Her ,who are both totally unknown to me, both have major parts in this film. They are both doing among the worst acting jobs ever and should take acting classes before going on screen with one of the greatest. The story line does not come with any surprises, and you can pretty much figure out most of the twists and turns as the film goes on.
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Did Eastwood's sense of quality take a holiday?
GoldmundX9 July 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Eastwood has shown us many times before he understands the art of movie-making. That's why it's so confusing to see he was able to make such an embarrassing, almost amateuristic movie. Yes, in the beginning of the movie some of the over the top grumpy, racist, cynical one-liners are quite amusing, but then it just turns into an embarrassing spectacle of bad acting, bad writing, bad editing, just bad movie-making. The acting of the girl, and especially the boy next door are just gutwrenching to watch. My head was spinning by such a display of amateurism. I try to understand how on earth they could have ended up in an Eastwood movie. Are they his adopted children or children of friends or something? For sure he's doing somebody a huge favor to include them in the movie. Some of the scenes are really beyond bad. What's up with him connecting with the Asian kids by fixing the washing machine in the basement? The whole idea of the scene is stupid and embarrassing, let alone the execution of it. And than the scene when they are waiting for the girl, not sure what happened to her. Eastwood stares at his hand saying (something like) "at least in Korea we were expecting to loose one of us".... Can it get more cheesy than that? I didn't know whether I should laugh or cry. And than the scenes with the barber. The initial idea works out well and amusing - the barber and Eastwood doing their grumpy routine. But than they try and milk the idea and even introduce the boy (deprived of all acting skills) into their 'domain of real men' to teach him the way of Men (to curse). It just gets so embarrassing, you just want to leave the theater and get drunk to simply destroy the brain cells that stored the whole thing, to save you from uncomfortable flashbacks for the rest of your life. Let's just hope mr. Eastwood had a blackout, let's just hope his sense of quality returns and let's hope the majority of IMDb-ers grow a sense of quality so 'movies' like this don't end up in the top 100 of all time again.
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This is a great cowboy film
bd200424 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Gran Torino is a Western. It has all the elements you love to see in a cowboy film. - Hard bitten (albeit aging) lead character, experienced, unafraid of danger in a cowboy zen kinda way. - A lawless town (neighborhood) where some innocents live - Bad guys running amok - Innocents in need of protection, leadership, a clean-up guy - Dangerous encounters in the streets - A woman who compliments the cowboy's hard bitten attitude (she has a heart of gold) - A local who wants to tow the line, stick to law (the priest) - The cowboy has a sense of ethics warped by his experience with bad guys - Questions of right and wrong and the existence of good (even God in this case) - Redemption (Eastwood assumes the position of Christ Crucified)

Gran Torino is a great western with nothing missing.
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Old age and unreasonably bad acting
tile4618 February 2009
Warning: Spoilers
It seems that Clint has embraced his old age rather gracefully. He's grumpier and creepier than ever. But still has that wonderful edgy flair that keeps us coming. His performance was wonderful and no one could have possibly played a racist Korean war vet quite like him. That aside the movie was terrible. Not because of writing flaws or cheesy one liners, like I expected, but because besides good old Clint, no one in this movie bothered to act. It was bazaar. Clint was spectacular, but everyone else looked like they were just reciting words on a page. I've seen better performances at middles school Shakespeare shows. The preacher had only one emotion, and it was so vague and useless that I couldn't actually understand anything he did. The bad guys were comical at best and the loyal friend, Toad, or what ever, was so unconvincingly angry that I just wanted Clint to let him out of the cage and get killed so I wouldn't have to watch him pretend he was enraged. Apparently, in his old age, Clint has forgotten how to direct actors.
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Great Clint Eastwood, and that's about it.
flyingtiger0819 July 2009
The 4 stars are solely for Eastwood's performance, which was top notch as usual. He is like a fine wine, he only gets better.... As for the rest of the movie, a couple of other reviewers have nailed it, but the multitude of people that gave it anywhere from 9 to 10 stars saw a different movie from me. The rest of the acting in the movie is honestly the worst I can remember seeing in a movie. There are times when there is maybe one actor in a movie who is not very polished, but in this movie, there are actor after actor, scene after scene, where aside, from Clint, I thought I was watching a middle school production. And it wasn't ONLY the acting. The dialogue for a large part of the movie was also very forced, unrealistic, and staged. Not great writing here folks. There are a few rewarding moments, and again, Clint's acting and character are superb, but that is not enough to recommend this amateurish, predictable, and pretty unrealistic movie.
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Clint Eastwood's character is interesting; the rest is garbage
arcticcarrot14 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
This movie has so many problems that I'm not sure where to begin. So i'll simply mention things as they come to be, rather than in chronological order. The first thing that has to go from this film is the awful scene at the barbershop where Clint is trying to teach Thao how to interact with people. Awful, awful, awful, and it goes on and on, and then it ends with the lamest joke about anal sex with some carpenters. Actually, all the barbershop scenes can go, because the only thing they accomplish is to show that Clint's character makes racist remarks even with his friends. But we get that from the scene with the Irish foreman. The priest should have been recast. That said, the scene near the end when the priest just walks right into Clint's house is terrible. The whole movie the priest has been calling Clint's character by his first name, and Clint keeps correcting him, asking to be called Mr. Kowalski, and then predictably in this late scene the priest calls him Mr. Kowalski, and Clint says, "Call me Walt." Awful. And nothing is accomplished in the scene anyway. The editing is poor also. Scenes that have ended continue for a few more moments. For example, the scene where Sue is being hassled by three black guys is over once Clint gets her into his truck and they drive away. But the scene continues with a crane shot of the three guys walking away and talking about Clint. What do we care what these guys think of him? The scene is over, move on. Okay, now for some real spoilers... The end is completely retarded. Clint's character should not die that way. After all, his standing up to the gang earlier should have empowered the neighborhood to take a stand. They should have reported the names of the guys who raped and beat Sue. Instead, Clint goes on a suicide mission, somehow knowing that only then would people tell the police what's been going on. Someone says, "This time there were witnesses." Well, hell, there were witnesses every time, but no one was willing to speak up. Why should they now? It's ridiculous. And then of course the kid inherits the stupid car. Who cares? What he should have inherited was the tools. The tools are what really brought those two characters together; the tools are what will be useful to him in allowing him to get on with his life. The movie is plagued by some of the worst acting i've ever seen in a film. The bit where Thao is locked in Clint's basement and he's demanding to be let out had the whole audience laughing, and it was supposed to be a serious moment. I don't understand why people love this film. My only guess is that the vast majority of film-goers are morons. Oh well.
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