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Saturday, January 7, 2012

Gran Torino Movie Review - Clint Eastwood as Grumpy Old Man

I finally got around to watching Gran Torino.  Clint Eastwood stars and directs.  He plays an 80 year old man named Walt Kowalski.  Walt is an angry, intense, bitter Korean War veteran and retired US autoworker. He lives in a poor Detroit suburb that the audience can only presume was once a prosperous, working class town in a more golden time.  He is upset that people of various races (Latino, African,  Asian population) appear to be the majority population in his town.

I completely enjoyed Gran Torino.  Yes, the film uses all the same character tricks you've seen before.  The bad ass that finds a soft heart.  The reluctant mentor who takes a troubled kid under his wing (in a very Mr Miyagi / Ralf Macchio "Karate Kid" like way). The racist who overcomes barriers. The troubled conscious that finds peace.

Eastwood makes these well-worn themes work in what seems to be a homage to many of his older films:

-Walt, the disillusioned, word-gone-to-pot, character that feels a little, but not too much, like Dirty Harry. 

-The use of tobacco spit as a sign of disdain, like Outlaw Josey Wales. 

-Vulnerability (ie health), like Honkytonk Man. 

-Aging intense, veteran, like Heartbreak Ridge.  

The list could go on. Can you think of any others in this film?

This film is an embodiment of just about every role Clint's played and it works. No one else could play this role but him.

The supporting cast is made up of largely unknown and journeyman actors. I found the bitter interaction between the character Walt and his grown children bit cliche and not played particularly well by Brian Haley, Dreama Walker, Geraldine Hughs and Brian Howe. It felt too forced and not genuine. This is my only complaint about the film. The rest of the cast  were terrific. They come off as earnest and and effortlessly believable.

Any relationship, whether a casual acquaintance or new found love, on some level, draws us into affairs of other people's lives whether we like or not.  For me, this is what this movie is all about. Walt Kowalski, with great reluctance, forges new bonds and then must face the triumphs and tragedies of those bonds.

Great film.  Check it out.


117 Minutes

Profanity, violence, and completely, utterly politically incorrect.

Please Read These Other Film Reviews on Best Movie Reviews By TurtleDog

War Horse - Should You Watch This World War One Film ?

Is This The Greatest City Ever or Hell ... Or Both?

Clooney Gulf War Film - Does This Miss the Mark?

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