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Gran Torino
Year:
2008
Country:
USA, Germany, Australia
Genre:
Crime, Drama
IMDB rating:
8.2
Director:
Clint Eastwood
Christopher Carley as Father Janovich
Bee Vang as Thao Vang Lor
Ahney Her as Sue Lor
Brian Haley as Mitch Kowalski
Geraldine Hughes as Karen Kowalski
Dreama Walker as Ashley Kowalski
Brian Howe as Steve Kowalski
John Carroll Lynch as Barber Martin
William Hill as Tim Kennedy
Chee Thao as Grandma
Choua Kue as Youa
Storyline: Walt Kowalski is a widower who holds onto his prejudices despite the changes in his Michigan neighborhood and the world around him. Kowalski is a grumpy, tough-minded, unhappy old man who can't get along with either his kids or his neighbors. He is a Korean War veteran whose prize possession is a 1972 Gran Torino he keeps in mint condition. When his neighbor Thao, a young Hmong teenager under pressure from his gang member cousin, tries to steal his Gran Torino, Kowalski sets out to reform the youth. Drawn against his will into the life of Thao's family, Kowalski is soon taking steps to protect them from the gangs that infest their neighborhood.
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Reviews
Clint Eastwood at his very best
Review:

Clint Eastwood performs a knock-out and surely Oscar worthy performance as a disgruntled Korean War vet called Walt Kowalski. The plot, though simple in substance and style is brilliantly planned and educated. The film follows a disgruntled Korean war veteran named Walt Kowalski, who sets out to reform his neighbour, a young Hmong teenager, who tried to steal Kowalski's prized possession: his 1972 Gran Torino.

Whilst both electric and brilliant, Eastwood fully acts his character to the bone and it shows that this is a character that has been perfectly created by Eastwood himself. Every aspect is detailed and visually amazing. Eastwood also shows us his dramatic and comedic side to Kowalski. The direction by Eastwood is powerful and imaginative which flows as boldly as the story. The backdrop to the film is mystic and thrilling as you don't now what's going to happen next, and Eastwood has crafted this brilliantly which keeps audiences on the edge.

Verdict:

Never since The Outlaw Josey Wales has Eastwood portrayed a character so thrilling and as exciting as Walt Kawolski. All in all this is a powerhouse performance which should get Easttwood an Oscar and a definite Director nod.
2008-12-14
Horrible
My first ever post on this site has been kept for the biggest waste of time of my life...ever! How it is in the the top 250 i have no idea. For the people who have given this 10 / 10 I'm not sure you were in the right screen. The acting in this film was horrible...the story line wasn't even paper thin and the moral of the story was become friends with old people and get their cars.

I was expecting Clint to do a big build up to a full all out war on gangs...but no...just growled and drank beer.

It has one star because negative numbers are not an option Just avoid this film and save yourself time, effort and money.
2009-06-23
Very Poor Ending
This is a thoroughly enjoyable movie right up to the end. But the end is not good. It stinks on ice.

For the end of the movie to work, Eastwood needs outside help. Remember what the Hmong cop told the kid at the end? He said that this time, it would be different because .... Well, that is a young cop. His fellow officers are likely to tell him not to count his chickens before they are hatched. That outside help often dries up and blows away long before it is actually useful.

Well, all through this movie situations arise which are very similar to the end scene. All through this movie, that outside help was possible. All through this movie, nobody expected that outside help. And all through this movie that outside help doesn't appear. It doesn't appear from the community at large or from anyone related to any of the victims. It doesn't even come from the victims themselves. Heck, the victims are 100% absolute perfect candidates to give that outside help, but they don't do it either.

Still, Eastwood bets everything on it. Apparently his reasoning is: If I do my part, then everybody else will do their part. He seems to be forgetting that the entire community has been unwilling to have anything to do with that outside help that he needs.

And so, the movie closes in a way that would be shameful to Dirty Harry. He had so many other options. Instead, he goes against everything his character has done in his 80 years and chooses to do something that his character would consider weak and unmanly. It wasn't a brave act. Considering what else Eastwood's character was facing, this ending shows that he is giving up.

In the movie, Eastwood says "I finish things. That's what I do." Well, he didn't finish squat with this ending. There is a darn good chance that the people Eastwood is protecting are going to be a lot worse off in the future. That outside help often disappears. Cops on Law and Order and CSI are shown having trouble with that particular kind of outside help on every other episode.

It is a stupid, stupid ending to an otherwise totally enthralling movie.

There is no satisfactory rating to be given to this movie. It was absolutely brilliant until the end. But the ending is horrible.
2011-06-05
About as good as Hollywood gets
The current average rating of this film is a joke. Top 100 of all time? Wow... I have to say IMDb ratings are usually quite alright. Even if they may be dead wrong in placing films in the top list, they do give a decent indication of whether the film is lousy or good. But when a film like Gran Torino get's 8.4, it just reminds you how the merely good Shawshank Redemption is supposed to be the best film of all time according to the voters.

GT is not a bad film. It's juts mediocre. It's really promising at the start, but once you realize where it's going, with Walt and Tao, the Asian kid, well... It won't disappoint you. It does exactly what you'd expect from a mediocre Hollywood flick and thereby it's very predictable. Clint's acting is not terrible at first, but becomes very clichéd... The storyline itself isn't very believable as it develops. But I suppose it could have been a lot worse.

And by the way, it's pretty funny how every other person of polish descent in Hollywood is a "Kowalski". You'd think there'd be millions of them in present day Poland, but obviously that's not really true.
2010-06-03
Sterling but unexciting immigration drama
Eastwood's drama has all the ingredients for a convincing tale of redemption and the hard won legacy of Americanism, for which the Gran Torino of the title is a clear metaphor. The film seems distracted though, self-conscious. For me, this is an example of a good film watered down to mediocrity by weak acting.

With the possible exception of Eastwood (a good actor, who just about comes out in credit on the age against experience balance sheet), the supporting cast are all poor. Black, Mexican, White and Vietnamese youngsters are cut-outs, 2-dimensional replicas of comparable performances or simply the people I see on my South London bus. The Vietnamese adults are clearly not actors at all. Walt's family don't have a great deal of script to work with but again the youngsters are pale. Ahney Her, playing Sue, the sharp, sympathetic Hmong girl survives on charisma where her delivery fails - Bee Vang as Thao doesn't even have that. John Carroll Lynch as Walt's barber is an honourable exception to all this, although his job is to mediate the senior xenophobic mouthing-off which is a necessary irritant.

The upshot is that these characterisations have no depth and so have no investment in the film. They simply help move the story on from one situation to the next. Eastwood's Walt has no reactive exchanges in which to develop his own epiphanies. The catastrophic denouement becomes just another suburban episode, especially with the distracting epilogue in a lawyer's office. The original subject and its handling could have made this a notable, weighty drama. Instead - when one looks past the simple fact of Eastwood's involvement, like morning mist clearing - it's just another high-moral American flick. 4/10
2009-07-29
Lame, one dimensional and silly
There are a large number of gushing reviews on here and it was enough to fool me into watching this film. I think they're written largely by Eastwood's many fans, in honour of his remarkable career, and not really for this film. This review is to plead with you not to watch it.

The plot is implausible. The characters are one dimensional, silly stereotypes. The dialogue is lame - no-one talks like that! - some hilarious one-liners but this was because the language was so poorly researched and unlikely. Oh, here's satirical character Ali G - oh no I'm sorry, that's supposed to be a serious character. The racial stereotyping is so superficial I felt like I was watching a script written by a nine-year-old. The continuity gaffs are relentless, blatant, almost wilful. The whole thing looked like a children's made-for-TV adventure, of the sort they show around 4pm on a weekday, but pepped-up with graphic violence and lots of blood.

Then there's the actors. We all love Eastwood and you have hundreds of reviews of just him, he's OK in this. But the rest - I think they happened to be hanging around in Burger King one day and got swept up in a big Eastwood fun bus to go in his movie. That priest - no Catholic or any other priest can be as dumb as that. He's a lost character from Father Ted, and I felt an overwhelming urge to punch him every time he came on screen. Everyone else mumbles through their lines as if in a school play, particularly Thao. Sue is the exception, a giddy fairy-girl fresh from Disneyland, gabbling over her long words, as if reading a card in a call-centre, attempting to sound sophisticated.

But by far the most painful was the indulgence in Themes. Like a particularly dire concept album, Gran Torino takes on every big theme going and blunders around loudly in it. Catholicism, forgiveness, sacrifice, confession? Yeah we can take that, simples! Racism, social division, cultural alienation, yeah we can handle that. Coming of age? No-one's ever made a film about that, let's do it! Isolation of the elderly and infirm, terminal illness? Overseas wars and the burden felt by veterans? Revenge? Death? None of these profound facets of life are too tough, or warrant more than the most superficial thought before Eastwood wades in and sorts it with some guns.

Oddly, the one topic the makers may have been able to handle, and which I was naively quite looking forward to - classic American cars - was left untouched. I learnt nothing about the GT, what it stands for, its cultural significance or even why they bothered to include it. The Fast and The Furious, for example, is intellectual by comparison. And 8 Mile taught me more about Detroit.

Also, not that this matters, but the DVD extras were really dumb. Some flimsy interviews with the cast and crew on the topic "aren't cars great?". *Two separate films* with the same people saying the same stuff. No thought whatsoever went into this. And the closing credits - Jamie Cullum co-writing with Eastwood - caps it all. Just don't do it. Go watch "Unforgiven" again, really, you should do that instead.

Maybe this film works if you're American - all I can tell is that I'm British, and it didn't work for me. I think you'd have to be a real die-hard Eastwood fan to enjoy it.
2011-04-23
Overly Didactic and Not Terribly Realistic
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.
2009-07-27
Terrible
One of the worst movie ever. Unbelievely racist and unrealistic. Did the even research Asian culture they depicted or did they just swap in stereotypes about black people. CLint Eastwood's character is racist the entire movie, openly and the Asian characters laugh or put up with it. THe character of Thao is shown to be weak and needs Clint Eastwood, a white man to teach him how to act. There is a scene where Thao's sister interacts with black men and well, it racist. The black men want to rape her and her hip-hip white boy boyfriend is a pussy who tries to befriend the black guys until CLint Eastwood, or super Whitey comes to save the day, call the black guys a racial slur and point a gun at them. THao's cousins are gangsters and when he doesn't join their gang they rape his sister. THe hell? That never happens, I mean they raped their cousin. Once again Clint saves the day and sacrifices his life for his Asain friends. He leaves Thao a Gran Torino and says racist things about every ethnicity in his will. So CLint doesn't even stop being racist at the end of the the movie.
2013-07-22
Yet another Eastwood gem
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.
2008-12-15
A positive message doesn't cover up a bad film
Films about racism are often unpopular to criticise because of the good message they put out, but more often than not, aside from the warm fuzziness of knowing you're better than those nasty racists, there's little more to them than that message. "Racism is bad", Gran Torino says. "I know". "Racism is bad". "I know". "Racism is bad". "I know". "All criminals are non-white". "What?" "Racism is bad".

American History X suffered from similar issues, although there was enough about the plot to make it watchable, whereas This is England actually humanised the racists, getting the same message across but in a way that isn't just back-slapping over how we, the creators and audience, know racism is bad. While Walt is just a nasty old man stuck in his ways and American History X's Derek Vinyard was just getting back at non-whites for killing his father, This is England's Combo was a borderline mentally ill man looking to shift blame for his own emasculation onto an easy target in Thatcher's bleak Britain as Shaun desperately seeked a father figure, with Shaun not getting a happy ending, forced into learning he can't just take the easy way out. If anything both Walt and Derek appear somewhat justified in their racist actions, as those criminals that are causing the problems are all non-white, while This is England manages to both portray racism as bad and remain empathetic rather than simply demonising them, which would only entrench the views further.

Gran Torino is much closer to Harry Brown than it is to This is England - a conservative wet dream about an old man who gets justice on the horrible, ungrateful younger generation. The film is meant to be about how Walt changes his racist views, but the character is a bitter, stubborn old man who remains dislikeable throughout the film, refusing to admit his faults. At the end of the film, the eulogising by those around him hold him up to be a shining light of humanity for making the ultimate sacrifice to save his Asian neighbours, but, within the context of his character, his martyrdom is self-congratulatory - a final stubbornness that puts a conservative view of honour above Walt's own survival, showing he would rather die than truly change the way he lives.

On top of the mixed messages the film gives out, the film is objectively bad. Not a great deal happens, the characters are one-dimensional (bitter old man, pathetic teenage boy, know-it-all teenage girl, villainous gangsters) and the acting, Eastwood aside, is cringeworthy.
2013-08-24
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