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Review: Gran Torino

Ryan Ellis

by: Ryan Ellis
December 25th, 2008

Rating: 8/10

Up until about a month ago, I had not even heard of GRAN TORINO. Okay, well, maybe the car, but not the movie. I assumed like many other people that Clint Eastwood has submitted his work of the year in CHANGELING and we would have to wait until next year to have another movie directed by the legendary luminary. Surprise to me we get not just a movie directed by Eastwood but he is also the lead actor.

In the most rudimental light GRAN TORINO is a story about tolerance and learning. That may sound broad but there is a fundamental archetype throughout this movie of the older mentor-type in Clint Eastwood's character, Korean War Vet Walt Kowalski, towards a younger unlearned boy named Thao. Thao is easily tempted by the local Asian gang to steal a car and initiate himself into the gang, the only problem is the chosen car is Kowalski's beloved mint 1972 Ford Gran Torino; of course he is caught and this makes Thao's family very grateful, to the annoyance of Kowalski. Clint Eastwood's character is not borderline racist but full blown, not to the point of committing a hate crime for Kowalski still has a protector instinct in his blood, but the racial slurs and un-politically correctness are rampant, and almost a relief. Others give good performances in this movie, the earnest young Priest who is on a mission to save Kowalski's soul, to even Thao and his sister; it is just that they all pale in comparison to the seasoned acting of Eastwood, he plays his age well and incorporates his strong performances of the past like the aggressors of DIRTY HARRY and SUDDEN IMPACT. But Kowalski's character is not static, thought gruff and grumbling throughout the movie, he is best identified early in the movie by his saying, "Yeah I blow a hole in your face and then I go in the house and then I sleep like a baby…we used to stack fucks like you 5 feet high in Korea, use you for sandbags," which is some brutally fantastic writing.

Through about three-fourths way through the movie you start to see the change in Kowalski as he takes to this young boy Thao and teaches him facts of life and even lets him borrow his adored car. The greatest factor about GRAN TORINO and what I think will make his wildly successful is the margin of demographic that will enjoy it, my grandparents could go see this movie and enjoy it as much as I have. Clint Eastwood has yet again renovated his icon and his anti-hero charm after a staggering five decades in Hollywood and though he has never won a Best Actor Oscar, I think this movie could give him his best shot.

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