Review of Gran Torino


Movie Review: "Gran Torino" --

Rating: R (language throughout, and some violence)
Length: 106 minutes
Release Date: December 12, 2008
Directed by: Clint Eastwood
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Cast: Full cast and crew
Stars: 4 out of 5

"Gran Torino" gives viewers a look at some of the struggles and hardships that war veterans and immigrants can face in America. However, the film does not state the ideas it addresses up front. Instead, it uses the life of Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood), his neighbors, and a compelling background story to help viewers see the true battles every one of these people face today.

"Gran Torino" is an exciting drama about a Korean War veteran who tries to cope with his ever-changing neighborhood. A grumpy, racist, beer-chugging old man, Walt Kowalski struggles to get along with his neighbors and even his own children. After his neighbor Thao, a young Hmong teenager under pressure from his cousin and other gang members, attempts to steal Kowalski's prized 1972 Gran Torino, Kowalski sets out to reform the teenagers in his neighborhood. However, he gradually comes to realize that he has more in common with his new Southeast Asian neighbors than he first thought. He begins to see them as family and seeks to protect them against the gang members that roam the region.

Clint Eastwood's Hollywood career is nothing short of amazing. As a director, Eastwood has over 40 years' experience and two Oscars. As an actor, he has over 50 years' experience and two Oscar nominations for best actor. "Gran Torino" puts both of his stunning abilities to the test and he passes with flying colors. It is no wonder this film won 18 awards and received seven further nominations.
Eastwood's character in "Gran Torino" is best described as an older, retired version of Dirty Harry. Walt Kowalski is a shotgun-toting veteran with lots of energy and a scowl that could scare off every gangbanger in North America. Nonetheless, as the film goes on it, the audience finds it easy to sympathize with Kowalski's attitude or at the very least, to understand it.

Underneath Kowalski's grimaces and growls lies a hurt, vulnerable, and even loveable man who simply does not want things to change around him. After the death of his wife, he finds himself in a neighborhood full of gangs, with children who don't love him and a self-centered, greedy grandchild. He resorts to spending his time repairing his home and working on his prized 1972 Gran Torino, a car that he helped build on the Ford assembly line. Apart from that, he sits on his porch all day long.

Thanks to Eastwood's directing ability, the film does a wonderful job of starring two previously unknown actors. Ahney Her and Bee Vang both provide believable and excellent performances.

Bee Vang stars as Thao, a teenager who is coming of age as he struggles to find a place for himself in a neighborhood filled with gangs. During his first on-screen appearance, he comes across as a polite young man. However, after pressure by from cousin, he comes to believe that his true path in life is to become a gang member. It is because of this that he attempts to steal Kowalski's Gran Torino. Kowalski catches him red-handed and ponders whether to shoot him or let him go. Soon, with help from Kowalski, Thao comes to see how ridiculous his cousin and the other gang members are. Kowalski takes Thao under his wings, sets the young man up with a job as a construction worker, and gives him tools he needs to get started. Eventually, Kowalski even gives Thao the keys to the Gran Torino.

Ahney Her plays Thao's sister Sue, a likeable, sensible young woman who attempts to show Kowalski her culture and get to know him better. Even though Kowalski calls her "dragon lady," she is a good sport about the nickname and embraces Kowalski as a new member of her family. After some time, Kowalski begins to embrace her as family as well.

This thrilling adventure should keep its audiences right where they belong: mesmerized in front of the screen. The direction, script and acting are all too good to miss, and the music score also adds a lot to the film. Despite Walt Kowalski's racism and scowls and Thao's thievery, it is difficult not to fall in love with the three main characters. The powerful script, relatable characters, and emotional thrills are all sure to keep viewers glued to their seats.