Review: Gran Torino
Plot: Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood), is a newly widowed, cantankerous, and bigoted old man, who`s uncomfortable with the changing demographic of his Detroit neighborhood. Meanwhile, his Hmong neighbors, including teenagers Thao & Sue, are being terrorized by a local gang, who want the reluctant Thao to join their ranks. One evening, Walt catches Thao trying to steal his treasured 1972 Gran Torino as part his initiation into the gang. Rather than turn Thao into the authorities, he works out an arrangement where Thao will run errands for him, and eventually he begins to bond with his Hmong neighbors.
Review: I must admit to being somewhat disappointed with this film. I've come to expect great things from Eastwood as a filmmaker, and as a result, I feel GRAN TORINO comes off as a relatively minor effort from ol' Clint. It really pales in comparison to some of his more recent work (such as THE CHANGELING, which was inexplicably panned by many critics when it came out a few months ago), although that's not to say that it's a bad film per se. It's simply a fairly mediocre one, and certainly not deserving of the praise most big time American critics are pouring on it.
The problem with GRAN TORINO is primarily the pacing, which is, shall we say- leisurely. Now there's nothing really wrong with that, but at almost two hours the film is easily twenty minutes too long, and too many scenes seem to meander on. This is especially true of the lengthy midsection, although there is one great scene where Walk takes Thao to his Italian barber for a quick lesson on how to properly talk trash with other guys. I also had a problem with some of the acting, particularly from Bee Vang, and Anhey Her, who play Walt's teenaged neighbors. Both roles are pivotal, and while neither of them are particularly bad, they both come up a little short at times, particularly towards the end.
One person who's performance I can't criticize is Eastwood. He's terrific here as always, and his Walt Kowalski is yet another iconic character. He's kinda like a geriatric Dirty Harry. Despite the fact that he's pushing eighty, Eastwood is still an imposing figure, and definitely not someone you'd want to tangle with, which is a lesson a few gang bangers learn the hard way in this film. Eastwood really gives it his all here (he even sings the theme song!), and I wouldn't be a bit surprised if he cops an Oscar nom, although I don't think he deserves to take home the statue this year.
All in all, GRAN TORINO was a fairly disapointing film, but still well worth seeing if only for another great Eastwood performance. It's a pretty good film, but not in the same league as anything he's done since MYSTIC RIVER (although it's maybe a shade better than FLAG OF OUR FATHERS).
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