Thursday, 29 January 2009

Gran Torino: Movie Review

Gran Torino: Movie Review

Rating 7/10
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Cory Hardricht, Brian Haley, Dreama Walker, Bee Vang, Ahney Her
Director: Clint Eastwood
Dirty Harry, The Enforcer, That chap from Unforgiven.
Clint Eastwood does angry and wronged well - and you still know despite his advancing years, you just wouldn't want to mess with him.
Gran Torino finds him plumbing these murky angry regions again - this time to a darkly comic and ultimately shocking effect.
Eastwood is Walt Kowalski, a Korean war veteran, whom we first meet at his wife's funeral in church.
He's not a happy man - aside from the obvious reason, Walt's disgusted at the lack of respect his grandchildren are paying their grandmother - from his grand-daughter's bare midriff to his grandson's spectacles, testicles, wallet and glasses sign of the cross; he's not impressed at all.
This resentment and simmering disgust towards mankind in general continues at his wife's wake when his new Hmong next door neighbours ask for help.
To be greeted with a torrent of racial abuse.
It's pretty unlikeable stuff to start off with - but gradually Kowalski comes to befriend the neighbouring family and starts to adopt them - despite the son trying to steal his beloved Gran Torino car as part of a gang initiation.
And it's when the gang life butts in, and the family's attacked that Walt has to put aside his prejudices and face the fact he has no option but to settle some scores....
Gran Torino is a fairly honest look at the American way of life - and how some have started to resent it.
Yet, despite an at times unflinching look in the mirror, this film will strike a chord with many.
Walt's unhappy his neighbourhood's been encroached by what he calls "gooks"; he's angry his own son tries to put him a home after his wife's death and he's downright pushed over the edge when the gang retaliates.
It would be easy to draw parallels with Michael Douglas' turn as an extremely peeved off worker in Falling Down; but Clint manages to pull Walt back from the brink of sheer nastiness with some well injected black humour and some much needed humanity.
If we're honest, we'll all see shades of ourselves in Walt's daily niggles - but some of the racist abuse and darkly comic moments seem to come from Kowalski's uneasiness at behaving at odds to what he was taught in the army - and what he saw in combat.
His dealings with his barber are a real highlight in the film - and show how interesting customer service can be.
But Eastwood brings an underlying tenderness and humanity to his burgeoning friendship with Thao and Sue Lor of the family. It's probably because of this that the film's hit such a chord with the American box office.
Unfortunately, Gran Torino loses some points for predictability - Kowalski has something to atone for from his war days - and the ending can be seen a mile off.

That said when it comes, it still packs a powerful emotional punch and Kowalski is another great character to add to Eastwood's repertoire.

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