Gran Torino movie review
Gran Torino is the movie of the year. I know that is a bold statement, given that the year is less than 30 days old, but if another movie comes out in 2009 that can top Gran Torino, then it is going to have to be mighty good.
Gran Torino is the story of Walt Kowalski, played by Clint Eastwood. Walt is a retired blue collar worker and veteran of the Korean War. With the passing of his wife, Walt is alone in a neighbourhood he no longer recognises. It is now home to a large volume of immigrants, as well as rival gangs, which leads the bitter Walt to become further isolated and resentful of his neighbours. He keeps his remaining family at arms length and spends most of his days sitting on his porch, drinking beer with his dog. He's the epitome of the angry, bitter and racist old man. Walt makes it very hard for the viewer to like him, but at the same time, it's difficult not to feel a little bit sorry for him.
Walt's attitude towards his neighbours only deteriorates further when his teenage Hmong neighbour Thao attempts to steal Walt's prized, mint condition, 1972 Gran Torino, as part of a local gang initiation. When Walt later whips out his rifle (not a euphemism) and steps in to save Thao from gang reprisal, he becomes a hero to his neighbours, whether he likes it or not.
Thao's family force him to work for Walt, in order to pay off the debt he incurred by attempting to steal Walt's car. Walt begrudgingly accepts, and is slowly drawn into the lives of Thao, and Thao's sister Sue, even if it is somewhat by force. Walt takes Thao under his wing, deciding that he'll teach him what it means to be a man.
When the actions of the local gang impact upon Walt's new found contentment, crusty old Walt decides it's time he cleaned up his 'hood.
On paper, Gran Torino has the potential to be a tired, cliche ridden, feel good story of an outcast gaining community acceptance and making friends. In the hands of Clint Eastwood, Gran Torino avoids these pitfalls and thankfully the film steers clear of soppy sentimentality.
There is some classic Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino. Eastwood has always been a quote factory, ever since Dirty Harry Callahan snarled, "Do you feel lucky, punk?". As Walt, he doesn't disappoint.
Walt (to gang member): "Ever notice how you come across somebody once in a while you shouldn't have f***ed with? That's me"
Gang member (to Walt): "Are you f***ing crazy? Go back in the house."
Walt (to gang member): "Yeah? I blow a hole in your face and then I go in the house... and I sleep like a baby. You can count on that."
Eastwood is awesome in this film. When he say's that he'll blow a hole in a guys face, as a member of the audience, you believe him.
I can also say that I learnt something from the film. The term "Hmong" comes up a lot, and ignorant lil' ol' me didn't have a clue what it meant or referred to. Thanks to Wikipedia, now I do...
The terms Hmong (pronounced [mÌ¥É”ÌƒÅ‹]) and Mong ([mÉ”ÌƒÅ‹]) refer to an Asian ethnic group in the mountainous regions of southeast Asia. Hmong are also one of the largest sub-groups in the Miao minzu population in southern China. Beginning in the 18th century, Hmong groups began a gradual southward migration due to political unrest and to find more arable land. As a result, Hmong currently also live in several countries in Southeast Asia, including northern Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, and Myanmar-Burma.
Gran Torino is one of those films that sticks with you long after you've left the cinema. In that respect I would liken it to Children of Men. I'd heartily recommends this film to anyone, although be warned, there's a lot of very un-PC language that may offend. Go watch it.
I give it 5 out of 5 pickles, a rare honour.