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Gran Torino (2008)

grantorino

Disgruntled Korean War vet Walt Kowalski sets out to reform his neighbor, a young Hmong teenager, who tried to steal Kowalski’s prized possession: his 1972 Gran Torino.

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Top 250 #117

Year of Release: 2008

Director: Clint Eastwood

Cast:

Clint Eastwood – Walt Kowalski
Christopher Carley – Father Janovich
Bee Vang – Thao
Ahney Her – Sue
Brian Haley – Mitch Kowalski

A few months ago my buddy Eric from The IPC asked me to join his project called ‘Double Take‘ where he and a guest discuss a movie. I of course jumped on board, and we decided on Blade Runner as our movie of choice. Immediately we wanted to do another film, and we decided on Gran Torino, since I figured it would tie in nicely with my IMDB project, and it’s something I’ve been meaning to see but never got round to it. So here we are, about 4 months later and I’ve finally got round to seeing it and writing down my thoughts. My apologies Eric, you knew I would get sidetracked, but you stood by me and hopefully we can make this worth the wait.

How this works is you will see my review of Gran Torino, and below that Eric will chime in with his review. The feature will be posted up on both of our sites, and hopefully all you beautiful readers will read it on both sites and support our fun!! Thanks again to Eric for asking me to join, and I hope you all enjoy what we have to say.

Tyson.

I was initially surprised to see Gran Torino so high on the IMDb list, and it has been on my ‘must-watch’ list for a while now. After finally seeing it, not only can I see why it is rated so highly, but I’m annoyed at myself for waiting so long! For those that don’t know, the story follows Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood acting as well as doing directing duty), a recently widowed Korean War veteran alienated from his family and angry at the world. Walt’s young neighbor, Thao Vang Lor (Bee Vang), is pressured into stealing Walt’s prized 1972 Ford Gran Torino by his cousin for his initiation into a gang. Walt thwarts the theft and subsequently develops a relationship with the boy and his Hmong family.

Gran Torino movie image Clint Eastwood

Gran Torino is centered around a theme of Racism. Walt is not only racist but blunt and brash in his tone. Walt lives in what use to be a prosperous neighborhood which has turned into a project and a haven for gangs, and whilst he hates it he won’t be forced out. Despite his nature, there’s just something lovable about a straight-talking old man, and at times the film is pretty funny. Especially the scenes in a barber-shop, where traditional American ‘masculinity’ is shown at work, and it’s nice to see Walt actually crack a smile. When he comes out with lines such as ‘I once stacked fuckers like you five feet high and used ‘em like sandbags’ I felt as though only Clint could get away with stuff like that and still make it funny.

17_07_02_128_file

There is obviously a bit of action in the movie. After all, it wouldn’t be a Clint film without it! When something terrible happens to a member of the family he is now begrudgingly friendly with, he decides to take matters into his own hands, and this sets up the thrilling climax. I won’t spoil the ending, but it didn’t end how I felt it would (or hoped it would, I guess). Don’t get me wrong, the ending still worked, and the heart-strings were suitably tugged, but I just expected something slightly different.

There are a few contrived situations and ridiculous characters but I was happy to ignore and look past them because of how good Walt was to watch. I couldn’t help but think that at long last, Clint’s made that final Dirty Harry picture. I know this was rumoured initially to be another in the franchise, and whilst it definitely isn’t, there were times it felt as if Callahan left San Francisco for good and retired to Midwestern suburbia. Probably as close to seeing the Callahan character again as we will ever get anyway.

All in all, Gran Torino is a great watch. It may not be the smartest or most complex of scripts. Some of the words spoken by the gangs made me cringe (Eastwood encouraged the Hmong actors to ad-lib in Hmong), and at times you could see how this made so quickly (33 days), but all this does not a bad film make. Eastwood’s subtle performance is as charismatic and effective as ever, and combined with his directing efforts, it is great to see this legend of the silver screen make something so effective and well-loved (in box office terms, the most successful film Eastwood has made). It thoroughly deserves its place in the IMDb Top 250, and needs to be seen, especially if you’re a Clint fan.

8 stars

Eric   (check out his site and Gran Torino post HERE)

When I think of Clint Eastwood, honestly, I almost consider him a part of my family since I have basically grown up watching him in front of me. When I think of my dad – we didn’t always have a good time together growing up, but we did have a few good times, mostly those would involve the WALKING TALL movies and his favorite, Joe Don Baker as Buford Pusser. Aside from my Grandpa, the only other male influence in my life has to be my father-in-law who I totally love in that type of way and if he reminds me of anyone, it’s Clint Eastwood (minus the constant scowl and gravelly voice). One of my favorite stories of his is when, decades ago, his son (obviously my brother-in-law) and his buddy were doing something in the street with their new car and some asshole screamed at them and threatened them or something so Randy (the Father-In-Law) ran down the street and pulled the dude out of his car through the window and beat the shit out of him in his own front yard. It’s not like Randy is some sort of bully on the block – he’s a nice and jolly guy but someone threatened his kid and he took action. I wish that I had the same type of story to tell.

GRAN TORINO tells a similar story, in a way. Curmudgeonly (I spelled that correctly the first time?? I didn’t even type “first” right the first time…), old, racist Eastwood (whose character’s name is Walt Kowalski {which I won’t attempt to type a dozen times}) lives in the house he and his wife bought after The Korean War. The area, once populated by white folks is now predominantly Asian and while he hates it, he sticks to his ideals and principals and lives what was once the W.A.S.P. American Dream.

I don’t want to go into the whole dynamic and drama about how and why he bonds with the Hmong family next door, but he does and eventually he and the two kids, Thao and Sue are friends. One of my top ten scenes in Isaacs Movie History is depicted in a still frame above, when Thao and Sue are being confronted by a local gang of Hmong toughs, Walt reluctantly comes out of his house, rifle blazing and orders: “Get off my lawn!” I think we’ve all seen enough movies to know that there are going to be ramifications to threatening a gang at gun point, and there are, and there’s a scene (that I also love) in which Walt has just seen the counter attack to what he did, he busts up his cabinets with his fists and sits in a darkened room contemplating his next move.

Of course this all leads up to the inevitable, tragic ending that, honestly, left me slightly disappointed after such an emotional (to me) movie. I thought it was kind of flat and could have gone another way but… overall I love GRAN TORINO (except for that ridiculous song over the end credits) and I’ve seen it six or seven times.

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44 Comments

  1. Excellent review, haven’t seen this one in ages.

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  2. A bunch of Clint’s recent movies are thematically related (redemption) and don’t have upbeat endings … like “Million Dollar Baby,” with an ending so depressing I will never watch it again. Gran Torino wasn’t quite that bad, but painful enough. This is one of the movies, like Pale Rider, that Eastwood bought decades ago and waited to turn into movies until he was old enough to play them. I’ve never heard of any other actor/director (a) so sure he was going to live that long, or (b) patient enough to plan that far ahead. But Clint isn’t your typical movie guy. Gran Torino isn’t (INMHO) his finest work, but it’s good. Very good. And not nearly as gut wrenching as it could be. That’s a plus.

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    • I didnt know thats what he did, buying the rights early. Shrewd move! I would agree, I dont think its his finest work at all, but still excellent as you say. Thanks Marilyn 🙂

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  3. wordschat

     /  February 4, 2013

    Hey guys I loved this movie and your reviews. It was supposed to be Clint’s swan song acting gig but I guess someone hand to pull him back in for that cranky wasted piece of celluloid about the aged baseball scout being put into pasture. In Grad Torino you see crusty cranky with well developed reason. Clint at a new height. I liked the music too. At least one song by his composer son Kyle who dabbled in acting as a kid in HonkyTonk Man. Later wordschat.

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    • Yeah I read it was going to be his last work. I havent seen his new film, so cant really comment, but sounds like you werent a fan!! 🙂

      Thanks for the music trivia, nice touch! Cheers buddy 😛

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  4. Good review. Clint makes this movie so much better, but it’s just a shame that everybody else around him blows terribly and can’t really keep up to the speed of his performance/direction. This would have probably been a way better film to go out on, than that lame-o fest, Trouble with the Curve.

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    • Yeah, that’s what I struggled with really, everyone else struggled and some dialogue was pretty poor…..but Eastwood is all that matters 🙂

      Another comment about his latest movie, I still want to see it but no one is very positive about it!

      Cheers buddy.

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  5. Great reviews. Such a powerful film and Eastwood was fantastic in this film. Amazing. Saw it in theaters twice!

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  6. theipc

     /  February 4, 2013

    GREAT stuff Tyson!! Maybe we can do another one before Christmas 2014!!

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  7. GaryLee828

     /  February 4, 2013

    I saw this movie at the theater, and thought it was pretty good, but not necessarily great, and I am surprised it’s in the IMDB top 250. I mean you have to think…how many movies have been made in cinema? And this one is # 117? It’s definitely not that good. It’s worth watching. It’s worth adding to your DVD collection, mostly just b/c of Clint. But it’s not top 250 in the history of films good.

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    • Yup, thats why I mention on the IMDB Page I have here that this list is a strange one, but its a recognised one and hence I have to go by what they give me 🙂

      I would say I have seen 117 better films, but then its all subjective. Its a good film, very good, but as you say not top in the history of films.

      Cheers for the comment buddy 🙂

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  8. I do remember liking this movie, though to be honest it’s the ending that I remember most clearly and the rest of it kind of blurs in my mind. Thanks to this review, I will be watching it again. As for whether or not I’ll review it on my blog afterward…we’ll see how lazy (or not) I am. LOL.

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  9. At some points, I was laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe. Mostly whenever Walt would say something totttallly ridiculous and racist. The sandbag line was pretty good, and he also said something about gooks or whatever. Brilliant. I so want this on blu-ray. I don’t have too much of an issue with the ending, but I can see someone wishing it worked out differently.

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  10. I really enjoyed this movie far more than I thought I would the first time I watched it. Pretty good! Nice review!

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  11. Good stuff! There is a indescribable charm to this film under all of the tough layers of skin. It’s abrasive but Eastwood is a hoot in it!

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  12. I’ve been an Eastwood fan since my Dad took me to see ‘The Enforcer’ back in ’76, and we saw this one together as well, and I cannot begin to tell you how disappointed we both were in ‘Gran Torino’. Maybe my expectations were too high, or I’d seen so many of what I considered his ‘good ones’, that ‘GT’ didn’t stand a chance. I can see that, so far, my comment is the lone negative one, so maybe it’s just me missing something. I too had heard about the film being a Callahan story, and was looking forward to it; his character here does resemble Callahan in ways, and the film is worth watching for Eastwood, and Eastwood alone. Otherwise…’Dirty Harry’ or ‘The Outlaw Josey Wales’ might be a better way to go.

    I just ruined the mood of this thread, didn’t I?

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    • Compared to his other work, I can see why you could be disappointed. I think it was the weak cast here, no one really good enough as support in my humble opinion.

      You have ruined nothing Todd!! I like that your honest about it, and its nice to be able to review a film you have seen, and isnt full of torture that Im trying to sell to you!

      Cheers mate 😛

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      • Yes, I totally agree…I had no interest in the supporting cast, or their story. It’s funny, when I heard that this might’ve been a Harry Callahan film, I thought up a pretty cool story idea AFTER I’d seen this movie, that might’ve been a lot more entertaining for Eastwood fans. Too bad they didn’t ask me about it first!

        And I’m glad I didn’t ruin the thread…the thought of me doing so plagued me all day today!

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        • Get your story idea shared on your site man, sounds great!! 🙂

          You would never ruin a thread Todd, don’t worry! Always positive and negative responses on every review, part and parcel of it, and its all good 🙂

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  13. Clint Eastwood’s films age with him in a very natural way. He did it right – I can’t take Arnold and Sly serious, running around with things exploding all about them, jumping from moving vehicles and shooting up the bad guys, when it looks like they’re ready for a heating pad, their reading glasses and a Ben-gay rub down. Its a film for the mind rather than a visual bravado. GT is a film about real people and involves subject matter that no one would tackle in a serious way – racism, gangs, the changes in the population face of the US – that is why it is so high on the IMBD list.

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    • Nicely put my friend. I like the message this film is trying to get across, and Clint is excellent. For me the only let down was his fellow cast, but still didnt stop it being an excellent film. Cheers for your thoughts 🙂

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  14. This is the second review I’ve read of this. I really must watch it. I own it. The timing just hasn’t been right… Thanks for the push I’ve needed! 🙂

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  15. I barely caught this one in the theaters and I kicked myself for not seeing it sooner.

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  16. Great reviews, both of you. Gran Torino is a great film on many levels; the action, the warped humor, and the personalities at play are all fantastic. It’s an interesting object lesson on racism as well, because it shows that somebody can be racist while otherwise being a good person, and that often when somebody’s prejudices are challenged, they don’t change them so much as they add “except for that guy, he’s all right.”

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  17. Popcorn Nights

     /  February 6, 2013

    Enjoyed reading both reviews. I saw this on a plane a few years ago, which I always think is the worst place in the world to watch films, but at least it was an uncut version. I remember enjoying it but being slightly disappointed given the great reviews it had received. I think Clint’s presence just about lifts it above average. A proper movie star!

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    • Thanks buddy. Definitely due to Clint that this scored so high. No one else in it really worth noting, but he carries it.

      Planes are awful for watching films, BUT I did catch Elf on a plane years ago, and that started my love affair with Will Ferrell 🙂

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  18. I saw this on tv once… except I only saw the ending. I caught it another time, but I only saw the beginning. The ending got to me though, and I really have been meaning to watch this in it’s entirety so I know how the beginning got to the ending.
    Going to post this on twitter now as part your “call to arms.” Marvelous idea.

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    • Love how you’ve seen the ending already 🙂 The beginning is pretty good, more humour involved (racist humour I should add!).

      Thanks for the tweet, Ill be heading over to your site to do the same 🙂

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  19. Eastwood used to be my favorite actor back when I was young and he was doing Dollars and Harry movies. Now, unfortunately, he and I have split over politics, so I’ve moved on to Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Alexander Vlahos, James Bradley, Andrew Garfield, just off the top of my head………lol

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  20. Don’t beat yourself up too much about taking so long to watch this film. I still haven’t even watched Blade Runner! I think I am intimidated as I have no idea what cut to watch.

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