Gran Torino” movie review (originally reviewed in 2009) by Frank Tobin
Amidst a recent plethora of horribly mediocre movies (save for “The Dark Knight”), a shining light of superb writing (rare in this industry) and tremendous acting prowess, by an icon of the Silver Screen, bursts out of the Hollywood chum-bucket.
There are no bending bullets, no poorly conceived slap-stick, pop-culture references, no car chases (though there is a beautiful 1972 Gran Torino), and no teeny-bopper, sappy romantic, emo-Vampires.
Instead we get Walt Kowalski; a racist, Korean War vet, who loses his wife at the end of his life, and who has seen horrors beyond measure; a broken man, a survivor, a real man, a man who finishes what he starts.
In “Gran Torino,” Clint Eastwood makes a triumphant return to the business end of the camera, behind which he has made a remarkable career with such modern-day classics as “Million Dollar Baby” and “Unforgiven.”
The transformation that occurs within, and without, Walt is a marvelous blend of cultural shock and old school traditional “manning-up.” Living in a desecrated, gang-ridden Detroit neighborhood, Walt begins the story with a profound, deep-seeded hatred for the Hmong immigrants who have moved next door. As time goes on, he discovers the history of their heritage, and their, albeit unwanted, connections to the family’s gang member associations. The bond that forms between Walt and this family is both wonderful, and spiritual.
Walt finds himself alone in a changing world; a man from a forgotten time, with morals derived from the bitter-sweet embrace of looking down the barrel of an M-1 Garand Rifle. Throughout the course of the story he befriends a young boy named Thao; a typical teenager rife with teen angst and insecurity.
Drawn against his will into the life of Thao's family, Kowalski is soon taking steps to protect them from the gangsters that infest their neighborhood.
Cantankerous in his demeanor, but honorable in his intentions, Eastwood conveys a character that has been seen before, by Eastwood himself no less (Dirty Harry comes to mind immediately), but still retains a fresh appeal, and demands your attention from start to finish. It’s not like Eastwood hasn’t been doing this sort of thing for more than 50 years, and doing it extremely well no less (four Oscars, another 100 wins & 58 nominations).
The ending, while still a touch predictable, resonates with you, and shows that not only are all people capable of salvation, but that Eastwood still has a lot of magic, even for a 78 year old, for making quality pictures in an age where computer generated superheroes are the norm, and spoof-movies are nothing like they used to be (how hard is it to emulate “Airplane!” properly… do your homework film students, and learn your roots).
This is a man’s movie and should be required viewing for every overly emotional momma’s boy, and the fathers who failed them, in our society. Take notes kids, you’re about to be schooled by the best of the best: The Man with No Name (Eastwood’s character from “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.”