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Year:
2008
Country:
USA, Germany, Australia
Genre:
Crime, Drama
IMDB rating:
8.2
Director:
Clint Eastwood

 

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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
Gran Torino 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 an old man, who can't get along with either his kids or his neighbors, 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
One dimensional, condescending, and chauvinistic.
Clint Eastwood growls and huffs and puffs through this oh too predictable-derivative of the old west-American fable. Grizzled white guy saves poor neighborhood immigrants from the neighborhood punks. Clint gets to reprise his Dirty Harry routine, with the difference that this time he's almost 80, a racist, and bitter. His character is embarrassingly open about his narrow mindedness, an openness that would last one New York minute used on Blacks or Hispanics, but seems to bounce off the Hmong neighbors, who are probably equally bigoted but have the manners to keep it to themselves.

Clint reluctantly takes on the neighbor's son-who he had to drive out of his garage at gun point, after he tried to ineptly steal his Gran Torino-as a token of shame remuneration. In a week or so he's shaped him up from a diffident nerd into a more acceptable American: one who's willing to think about standing up for himself, and his family, against the neighborhood punks.

He also befriends the boy's sister, after saving her, in an embarrassingly retro scene, from the stereotypical black guys behaving badly. She educates him, against his protestations, in the more civilized ways of her people.

Unfortunately the screenplay relies on stilted, unrealistic dialog, almost as bad as if Dirty Harry had written it himself. The characters are one dimensional, and the relationships are drawn like a comic book.

In the end, inevitably, Clint rides off to do battle, after the punks take revenge on his neighbors for his own attempt to exact justice. His method, however, is definitely Christ like, even though it also is self serving. Clint is dying of cancer.

I've come to admire Eastwood's directorial work over the years, but from time to time he stumbles away from his simple, honest, style back into the artlessness of much of his earlier acting work.
2009-02-28
Another top-notch, Clint Eastwood film that entertains and teaches.
Manohla Dargis writes in the New York Times: "Dirty Harry is back, in a way, in "Gran Torino," not as a character but as a ghostly presence. He hovers in the film, in its themes and high-caliber imagery, and of course most obviously in Mr. Eastwood's face. It is a monumental face now, so puckered and pleated that it no longer looks merely weathered, as it has for decades, but seems closer to petrified wood. Words like flinty and steely come to mind, adjectives that Mr. Eastwood ... expressively embodies with his usual lack of fuss and a number of growls." More praise for Eastwood comes from Joe Morgenstern in the Wall Street Journal, who comments: "No one makes movies like Gran Torino any more, and more's the pity. This one, with Clint Eastwood as director and star, is concerned with honor and atonement, with rough justice and the family of man. It raises irascibility to the level of folk art, takes unapologetic time-outs for unfashionable moral debates, revives acting conventions that haven't been in fashion for half a century and keeps you watching every frame as Mr. Eastwood snarls, glowers, mutters, growls and grins his way through the performance of a lifetime." Elizabeth Weitzman in the New York Daily News remarks that "it's clearly a career-capping work." Kenneth Turan in The Los Angeles Times writes that the movie "is impossible to imagine without the actor in the title role. The notion of a 78-year-old action hero may sound like a contradiction in terms, but Eastwood brings it off, even if his toughness is as much verbal as physical. Even at 78, Eastwood can make 'Get off my lawn' sound as menacing as 'Make my day,' and when he says 'I blow a hole in your face and sleep like a baby,' he sounds as if he means it."

There are at least four reason why I like this film: 1. Clint Eastwood shows that the character he is playing is willing to serve in a war-- and die if necessary--to preserve freedom (and he has a medal to prove it), 2. he has grown old and the whole world has changed (and everyone around him seems to indicate--in one way or another--that he is no appreciated or needed), 3. even with a transformation, he demonstrates that people tend to be reactive--rather than responsive--and are slow to change (this is particularly true with bias, discrimination, and prejudice), and 4. that tolerance can lead to understanding (he tries to give tough love, but he becomes softer in his response--instead of his reaction--after giving and receiving genuine love). It seems that everyone around him wants his Gran Torino and everything else he owns, before he even has died, instead of being interested in him. He lives in a community that is transformation, and he knows absolutely nothing about culture, diversity, ethnicity, race, or sexual orientation. He does know about aging, however (if nowhere else, he learns about it from people's adverse and negative reactions, everywhere around him). He isn't exactly treated with dignity and respect, so why should he treat anyone else with dignity and respect? And, trust must be earned.

If this is Clint Eastwood's last film, I can only say that that his performance, in this stunning film, is what legends are made of. There are some wonderful performances in "Milk" (Sean Penn), "Australia" (Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman), "Changeling" (Angelina Jolie and director Clint Eastwood), and "The Dark Knight" (a riveting performance by "Brokeback Mountain's" Heath Ledger). In viewing all of these films, there are performances that are not only superb, but they evoke every one of the emotions and carry the intellect and intelligence of human cognitions to the highest pinnacle of excellence. As a gay person, I must say that I am moved by Sean Penn's portrayal of Harvey Milk, I am moved by the romantic chemistry between Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman, and I would be remiss if I did not mention Angelina Jolie's flawless and moving performance. But, I give the top honor to Clint Eastwood for giving us films that educate and entertain. And, "Gran Torino" (2008) is no exception. One cannot walk away from a Clint Eastwood film, without saying that they haven't learned something, or without saying (just like the legendary Ethel Merman used to sing) 'there's no business (quite) like show business'. I rank "Gran Torino" (2008) a 10 out of 10. Clint Eastwood's performance is more than another version of 'Dirty Harry'. In fact, his portrayal is reminiscent of the Paul Newman character in "Nobody's Perfect".
2008-12-13
Old age and unreasonably bad acting
It seems that Clint has embraced his old age rather gracefully. He's grumpier and creepier than ever. But still has that wonderful edgy flair that keeps us coming. His performance was wonderful and no one could have possibly played a racist Korean war vet quite like him. That aside the movie was terrible. Not because of writing flaws or cheesy one liners, like I expected, but because besides good old Clint, no one in this movie bothered to act. It was bazaar. Clint was spectacular, but everyone else looked like they were just reciting words on a page. I've seen better performances at middles school Shakespeare shows. The preacher had only one emotion, and it was so vague and useless that I couldn't actually understand anything he did. The bad guys were comical at best and the loyal friend, Toad, or what ever, was so unconvincingly angry that I just wanted Clint to let him out of the cage and get killed so I wouldn't have to watch him pretend he was enraged. Apparently, in his old age, Clint has forgotten how to direct actors.
2009-02-18
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
Cheesy and awkwardly patronizing
Judging from the high ratings this movie gets on IMDb, you would expect it to be great. Or at the least a bit entertaining and well thought out. Gran Torino is none of the above. It is incredibly cheesy, poorly acted (Clint does deliver, all the other actors unfortunately do not) and quite patronizing in its 'teaching' of morals.

This is probably the biggest problem with the movie: many scenes are devoted to showing how Clint comes to appreciate his Korean neighbors and how Tao learns 'hard working values', but the movie shows it in such a completely expected manner that I could have predicted the end (won't spoil) after the first half hour. The thing is: I get it OK? Old grumpy man appreciates Korean culture after having fought in (ohw what a surprise) the Korean War. Just please don't take two hours of god-awful scenes to tell this. And on top of that, don't keep spelling out the meaning of every individual scene or event that takes place; I GET IT!

I am willing to put all the bad acting (mainly the Korean actors) aside, but the patronizing messages that are explicitly iterated over and over again left me wanting to hurl.
2009-03-10
Great whether in front or behind the camera.
Hot on the heels of 'Changeling' Eastwood is back and as well as directing he is back in front of the camera. He plays Walt Kowalski a recently widowed ex-Vietnam veteran who harbours slight racism and bitterness which isn't helped by the changing world he now lives in alone. He has relatives but they only seem to call when they want something and his grandkids have already started deciding what they will have of his when he dies. He has a few mates he drinks with in the pub but other than that his neighbourhood is being overrun by immigrants and gang warfare. Walt's next door neighbours are a Hmong family with no father figure and after the son tries to steal his prize car, the 'Grand Torino' of the title, Walt decides to try and reform the boy and hopefully as time passes learn about their culture and change his mind before he dies. As with all Eastwood films where you begin isn't where you will end up and the story takes many turns that will test all of your emotions, I laughed, I cried and I got angry it's a real roller-coaster. But its Clint's aged 'Dirty Harry' in Walt that steals the show and anytime he is on screen he is mesmerising which means that the supporting cast members are barely noticeable. At times it plays like Lynch's 'Straight Story' with sprinkles of 'Taxi Driver' but the real beauty is in the old fashioned storytelling, something that Clint is a dab hand at, mix that with the modern day context and you have a gripping and enthralling film. It's no wonder that so many 'best of year' lists contain this film, they should, it is that good and it proves that even at 78 Eastwood is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to movies in front or behind the camera or in the case of 'Grand Torino' both.
2008-12-15
watch harry brown instead.
in short. woeful acting from everyone, its really, really bad, clint's never been a great actor in the true sense of the word, but he always had a huge presence which is still here somewhat but his lazy delivery is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the stilted performances here. this leads us to the next stages, script and characters, neither of which help the actors performances. the dialogue is awful, stilted and wooden and the characters are so stereotypical its unreal and make the whole thing almost laughable if it wasn't so insulting to any viewer who doesn't keep their brain in a jar. i said in short so id best just leave off with the plot, predictable, predictable and, yes, very, very predictable. clint is a screen legend but im sure if he made a documentary on paint drying itd be nominated for an Oscaror two, i genuinely wish more effort had been put in and some enjoyment could be had. watch harry brown instead.
2010-03-22
An absolute cinematic gem!
As Clint Eastwood reaches the end of his life, he presents us with yet another performance which is nothing short of legendary. Wishing to preserve the element of surprise, I will not reveal anything by trying to analyse this great work of art.

I will say this. There are similar qualities to his previous work, but I would say that both his directing and acting have reached a level of maturity comparable to that of an excellent wine. The story was compelling and, mixed with the drama was a refined touch of humour; the perfect combination for a pleasant evening.

I would like to finish by thanking Mr. Eastwood for sharing this touching moment with his audience at a time when most of the cinematic "art" produced in Hollywood consists of stunts and bad jokes.
2008-12-12
Shockingly Sloppy film from an Un-Characteristically Lazy Eastwood
Gran Torino {dir. Clint Eastwood, 2008}

*1/2/****

Let me preface my comments by saying, I am not here to rally against this film nor am I someone who detests the work of Clint Eastwood (I count both Million Dollar Baby and Unforgiven as two masterpieces of cinema). I was expecting to love Gran Torino, due to its impressive rating here on IMDb and its fairly positive critical notices, however, I found this film quite clumsy in its execution. Most of this is a direct result of an shoddy, inept script. This is not a situation of bad dialog (to the contrary, Eastwood gets the occasional stinging one- liner) but rather, of senseless construction and little care in story arcs and plotting. The film seems unsure if it wants to be a coming of age drama, wherein the crusty, set in his ways Eastwood learns a life changing lesson or if it wants to be Dirty Harry 6. In the end, the film is neither and is instead a jumble of both, and while there are some interesting moments within the two stories, every time the audience settles into the film's rhythm, the focus shifts top the other story.

The film eschews character motivation in favor of crass sentimentality, and suffers from split personality in the closing moments. At his directorial best, Eastwood can bring subtle and delicate nuance to rather stereotypical situations, here his work seems shoddy and just plain lazy. Revelations are rendered unrevealing and due to the lack of care taken in characterization, the ending has little cumulative impact. Were it not for Eastwood's sheer magnetism as an actor, the entire thing would be a disaster. As it stands, this film is a wholly minor work in Eastwood's filmography and a completely unsatisfying experience.
2010-01-06
Dirty Harry retires to Detroit
I have always liked Clint and I grew up in the Detroit area so I had high hopes for this film. Unfortunately, the movie did not deliver. It's biggest weakness (and there are many) is its dated story. The 'angry white guy struggles to come to terms with racial diversity' theme was interesting and relevant in the early 1970s (e.g, All in the Family) but it's very tired and predictable now. Within the first few minutes of the film, you just know that Eastwood's character is going to end up being friends with the Asian family next door.

The setting of the film also seemed strangely dated to me. The film showed Eastwood's character all resentful and nostalgic for the time when his neighborhood was all white. However most of those old Detroit neighborhoods began changing 40-50 years ago. The attitudes and reactions of the Eastwood character seemed to belong to someone who was just beginning to experience this change and not someone who had been living with it for 50 years. I think the film would have made more sense if it had been set in the 1960s when these changes were underway rather than today.

Clint does have an aura of timelessness about him and he stills look damn good for a guy his age. However, the math in this movie doesn't work. Clint was just too old for the part which of course should not have been written as a Korean War Vet. Korean war vets are now well into their 70s and 80s. I have a hard time imagining guys this age driving around gang infested neighborhoods in Detroit with a pistol. It's even more implausible to think of such a person leaping out of a truck to face down three thugs on a street corner. But there was Clint doing the 'Dirty Harry' shtick well into his 70s. I found myself cringing in these scenes and wishing that Clint would have had a bit more dignity.

Clint has had an amazing career but this movie clearly shows that he should retire as both an actor and director.
2009-06-14
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