Saturday, January 17, 2009

Gran Torino

Probably you already know as much as you need to know about this one.  It's directed by Clint Eastwood, and he also stars as Walt Kowalski, a gruff Korean War vet grown old in a neighborhood where he's surrounded by Hmong immigrants whom he doesn't like and with whom he believed he has absolutely nothing in common.  His wife has just died, his sons and their families don't much like him, and he's pretty much alone except for his dog.

Then things start to happen.  Walt breaks up a fight that involves one of his neighbors, a boy named Thao.  Gang members trying to recruit Thao tell him that his initiation will be to steal Walt's Gran Torino.  Walt stops him, of course, and the boy's family makes him agree to work for Walt in compensation.  Thao's sister, spunky and a match for Walt's grumpiness, persaudes Walt that he has to go along.  Eventually Walt gets pulled out of his shell a bit by the Hmong family, especially Thao and his sister.  There's a certain point about halfway through the movie where you'll probably know exactly where everything is heading, but that's okay.  It all plays out so well that you won't mind.

The movie gets a little heavy-handed now and then, but there's plenty of humor to lighten things up.  Eastwood is just about perfect as Walt Kowalski, and while the rest of the cast isn't up to his standards, it doesn't really matter.  This is a movie about Kowalski, and I can't think of anybody other than Eastwood who could have pulled it off.  Because of my age, I've been around ever since Eastwood started in movies and TV, and I've seen his whole career.  That's not supposed to influence your reaction toward a character on the screen, but it does, and it all works in Eastwood's favor in this one.  He may not get the Oscar, but he puts on a fine show.


  1. Every time I see the commercial for this and Clint says, "Get off my lawn," I hear an announcer's voice saying, "Clint Eastwood IS Bill Crider in . . . THE BILL CRIDER STORY."

  2. I have the same flashes, James.

    Bill, Thanks for the review. The blushing bride and I are looking for the right time to take this one in.

  3. Clint says it twice!

  4. Basically, this one looked like it bore the same relation to the Dirty Harry films that UNFORGIVEN did to the Nameless Gunfighter films...sounds like looks aren't deceiving, though I'd probably like this one better than I did the DHs.

    But can we hang out on the lawn if we bring Dr. Pepper?

  5. As long as it's cold.

  6. When I was a kid, I remember seeing Dr. Pepper ads in Reader's Digest touting hot Dr. Pepper with lemon slices as a winter-time beverage.

  7. Anonymous8:10 AM

    There is a fascinating article about Eastwood in The Common Review (published by the Great Books Foundation). Its title is Clint Eastwood's Theological Vision, and yes, it is about his theology, and how it has profoundly altered the nature and soul of his films. It says, in part, "this choice puts him solidly in a religious tradition that would have to include the book of Micah, Boethius, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Gandhi, and the beloved community celebrated by Eastwood's contemporary Martin Luther Kings, Jr. The theological company Eastwood keeps offers a distinct way to help to better understand his cinematic vision."

    Richard Wheeler

  8. Anonymous1:43 PM

    The film is like putting on an old pair of slippers. It’s just comforting to see Eastwood doing Eastwood.
    Bryan Barrett