By Megan Reece
Director: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Bee Vang, Ahney Her, Christopher Carley
Screenwriters: Nick Schenk, Dave Johannson
MPAA Rating: R
Reviewer’s Rating: 3 ½ out of 5 stars
First, a warning: the majority of the acting in “Gran Torino” is absolutely horrendous. Some of the worst in any major film. Luckily, Clint Eastwood balances out his less talented cast with a beautiful performance.
“Gran Torino” is the story of an old man who has lost the only person with whom he’s ever truly connected. Not even his distant sons can offer real comfort. Eastwood plays grizzled veteran Walt Kowaski, who is unwilling to move out of his old neighborhood, recently overrun by Hmong and Mexican immigrants.
An unlikely scenario leads him to get close to his Hmong neighbors, particularly the daughter Sue (Her) and son Thao (Vang.) Walt notices the gang tensions in the neighborhood and laments that Sue and Thao are doomed if the violence does not stop.
The violence itself is frightening. Sue and Thao have one particularly vicious cousin trying to force Thao into the local Hmong gang. There is also the constant threat of violence against Sue, and one scene in the film gives the audience a rather unsettling representation of said threat.
Through the majority of the film, Walt has an uncanny knack for being in the exact right place at the right time. Early in the movie, we see Walt through his neighbors’ eyes, as the local Hmong women come together to honor him as a hero.
This is the main plotline of the film, but sometimes it’s difficult to figure out the direction in which Eastwood is heading. He tries to fit a lot of turns into the movie, and they do not all run smoothly. Many of the storylines jump around, and some never do get resolved. But for the most part, the viewer gets the point.
Eastwood is nothing short of amazing in the film. He plays a stereotypically crotchety old man flawlessly, even while yelling “get off my lawn!” His character tries to be the father Thao never had, as well as the father he never was to his own boys. A particularly good scene involves a barber shop, the surly barber and an unsuspecting Thao. Walt declares that Thao must learn how to talk like a man. If you are offended by colorful language, you might want to skip this one.
“Gran Torino” has the ending that you might expect, though the resolution itself is a bit surprising. By the finish, the viewer should have enough love for Walt to bring a few tears to the eyes. Though some technical aspects of the film are weak, and most of the actors could use a few more years of training, “Gran Torino” is absolutely worth the price of admission.