Posts Tagged ‘gran torino


Movie Review: Gran Torino



Not exactly the best endorsement for Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America…


Starring Clint Eastwood, Bee Vang, Ahney Her, Christopher Carley, and John Carroll Lynch. Directed by Clint Eastwood.


Walt Kowalski (Eatswood) is a Korean War vet and retired Ford plant worker that, as of the beginning of the film, has lost his wife. He’s the kind of guy steeped in the Old World and Old School values. As he stands beside his wife’s casket in church he grits his teeth and stares down a granddaughter who has a nose ring and belly-button piercing. If that wasn’t enough he’s forced to be around people he doesn’t like and for the moment, they’re forced to be around him. Aside from that he smokes, chews tobacco, and drinks Pabst Blue Ribbon while sitting on his front porch staring at a suburb he’s lived in a majority of his life which has became an object of “white flight.” Most of his neighbors are now Asian/Hmong (pronounced “mung”) and the eldest woman next door wonders why he’s still around. The one true pride and joy of his life is his car, a green 1972 Gran Torino (which he proudly states that he put the wheel column in while it was still on the line).


Enter Thao (Vang), a young Hmong kid who lives next door to Kowalski. Thao has low self-esteem from growing up without a father and having his older sister Su (Her), mother, and whoever else berate him. When Thao is confronted by his gang-leader cousin, he bends under peer-pressure and tries stealing the GT. Kowalski thwarts his attempt and Thao returns home in shame. When his cousin causes a fight on the family’s front lawn it spills over into Kowalski’s. Kowalski busts out his M1 Garand and breaks up the fight, saving Thao’s life. The next day Kowalski is the neighborhood hero when he just wants to be left alone.


One afternoon he drives home in his truck and sees Su and a friend being accosted by a few black kids. He pulls up, talks with the them, pulls out a 9mm, saves her, tells the friend to get lost, and gives her a ride back to the neighborhood. A friendship is forged as they talk and she is his tour guide through the world of the Hmong (“We’re hill people not jungle people.”)


The film’s main theme is personal worth. Kowalski is a racist guy who doesn’t want anything to do with anyone. His own grown-up kids don’t like dealing with him and don’t know how to. Whenever he greets someone, he announces their background: “Hey, you Mick.” “Hey, you Polack.” With his wife dead and few friends, he lives in a sea of regret, bad memories, and worse nightmares. As for Thao, he doesn’t have any personal worth to speak of. As Kowalski “takes him under his wing,” Thao develops a sense of pride and accomplishment with himself. Both are seemingly heading for redemption.


What I liked about this movie was that it was better than I expected it to be, and not what I thought it was at all. If Eastwood wasn’t who he was, I could entirely imagine him being this guy. Think “Dirty Harry” Callahan one step away from the nursing home. He’s old, retired, pissed-off, and is watching a world going to waste. It’s this attitude that makes the story believable, the comic moments funny, and the reality tragic.


Also, I liked the fact that the setting of the story was a section of a city where “white flight” had occurred. I’ve wondered why I haven’t seen that subject brought up in other films and give kudos for the fact that it’s been one of the first that I know of to address the issue.


Last note: the ending. While I won’t say what happens, I will say that it was incredibly smart. Good job, guys.


But, how is the movie? Probably one of the best matinees I’ve caught in a long time. It’s funny, sad, poignant, but most of all, well-made. Eastwood has said that this is the last movie he’ll act in. If that’s the case, I couldn’t think of a better one.


My grade: A





December Movie Releases




“Cadillac Records” – Biopic on the record company that gave starts to Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, Etta James, and others. Stars Adrien Brody, Mos Def, Cedric the Entertainer, and Beyonce Knowles. Opens December 5, 2008


“Frost/Nixon” – Based on the real life events of British talk show host David Frost interviewing ex-president Richard Nixon after his impeachment. Stars Frank Langella, Michael Sheen, Kevin Bacon, Sam Rockwell, and Oliver Platt. Opens December 5, 2008


“Punisher: War Zone” – Ray Stevenson plays the Marvel character who, this time, is taking on a New York underworld boss it wants to control it all. Opens December 5, 2008


“Che” – Part One of Steven Soderbergh’s two-part saga on revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevera. Stars Benicio del Toro. Opens December 12, 2008


“The Day the Earth Stood Still” – Keanu “Whoah” Reeves stars in this remake about an alien who comes to Earth to deliver a message: live in peace or be destroyed. No word on if he’s bringing the cure for cancer or not… Opens December 12, 2008


“Delgo” – CG animated epic about a teenage creature struggling to unite two warring nations. Contains the voices of Val Kilmer, Eric Idle, Michael Clarke Duncan, and Jennifer Love Hewitt. Opens December 12, 2008


“Milk” – Directed by Gus van Sant, this is the biopic on San Fran’s first homosexual mayor, Harvey Milk (played by Sean Penn). Also stars Josh Brolin, Emile Hirsch, and James Franco. Opens December 12, 2008


“Nothing Like the Holidays” – The Rodriguez family is converging on Chicago for Christmas. Stars John Leguizamo and Alfred Molina. Opens December 12, 2008


“While She Was Out” – Kim Basinger is an abused housewife who gets out of the house and goes to the mall, only to run into murderous thugs. Eventually, she finds herself in the woods with only her wits and a toolbox. Opens December 12, 2008


“Gran Torino” – Clint Eastwood plays a man in his seventies (who knew?) who saves the life of his Asian neighbor’s son, much against his prejudice. He ends up in a war against the gang that assaulted the son. Opens December 17, 2008


“The Wrestler” – Mickey Rourke stars as Randy “The Ram” Robinson, a burnt-out 80’s wrestler who has one last shot of glory: taking on his arch-nemesis “The Ayatollah.” Thing is, this could cost him his life. Also stars Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood. Opens December 17, 2008


“The Brothers Bloom” – Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo are brothers pulling a con job on a wealthy woman (Rachel Weisz). Also stars Robbie Coltrane. Opens December 19, 2008


“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” – Brad Pitt is the title character: a man who was born looking ancient and regresses in outward age as he progresses with his inward age. Complications arise when he falls in love with Cate Blanchett. Opens December 19, 2008


“Seven Pounds” – Will Smith stars as a guy about to commit suicide who falls in love with a woman. Also, he tries changing the lives of seven people for the good. Opens December 19, 2008


“The Tale of Despereaux” – CG animated tale of a mouse whose ears (and ambitions) are far too big for his Mouseworld. He becomes an outcast and his journey leads him to a Princess named Pea, whom he must rescue. Opens December 19, 2008


“Yes Man” – Jim Carrey finds that “yes” is the new “no” and that saying it can be liberating. Unfortunately, there are some drawbacks… Opens December 19, 2008


“Bedtime Stories” – Adam Sandler watches his sister’s (Courtney Cox) kids. When he reads them bedtime stories, elements of the stories bleed into reality with hilarious results. Opens December 25, 2008


“Marley and Me” – Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston adopt a Labrador puppy. Comedy hijinks supposedly ensue. Opens December 25, 2008


“The Spirit” – Frank Miller takes the director’s chair and brings “The Spirit” to the screen. Gabriel Macht plays the titular character: a cop who fakes his own death to fight crime. Also stars Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Eva Mendes, and Jaime King. Opens December 25, 2008


“Revolutionary Road” – Leo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet team up again, this time going forward a few years to the 1950’s, playing a couple dealing with personal problems while living in their Connecticut suburb. Opens December 26, 2008


“Valkyrie” – Tom Cruise heads up a cast of people trying to depose Hitler in Word War II. Based on a true story, and they’re stickin’ to it. Opens December 26, 2008


“Defiance” – Daniel Craig is one of four brothers saving Jews by taking them into the forest and setting up their own village with the help of Russian resistance fighters. Based on a true story. Opens December 31, 2008