Gran Torino (2008)

Gran Torino (2008)
  • Time: 116 min
  • Genre: Drama
  • Director: Clint Eastwood
  • Cast: Clint Eastwood, Bee Vang, Ahney Her


Walt Kowalski is a widower who holds onto his prejudices despite the changes in his Michigan neighborhood and the world around him. Kowalski is a grumpy, tough-minded, unhappy old man who can’t get along with either his kids or his neighbors. He is a Korean War veteran whose prize possession is a 1972 Gran Torino he keeps in mint condition. When his neighbor Thao, a young Hmong teenager under pressure from his gang member cousin, tries to steal his Gran Torino, Kowalski sets out to reform the youth. Drawn against his will into the life of Thao’s family, Kowalski is soon taking steps to protect them from the gangs that infest their neighborhood.


  • Clint Eastwood’s ‘Gran Torino’, his first movie in 4 years since 2004’s ‘Million Dollar Baby’, delves into the tired life of retired Korean War veteran, Walt Kowalski, who has found himself living right next door to a family of Hmong Asians. The story explores the complications of racial boundaries, and is mainly driven by the development of relationships between the different characters more than anything else.

    The film acts as a modern-age American ideology film, as Walt continuously fights to protect his own property against intruders. But his intentions quickly become misconceived as heroism by his neighbors, and he suddenly finds himself with more to care about than his own lawn. The plot of this movie relied primarily on the actions and reactions of the characters that are at odds. We see periodically through a series of harsh, embarrassing, and life-threatening events how two people who have no interest in establishing a relationship can come to caring enough to fight for each other’s honor.

    We start to learn a lot more about the intentions of each character in this movie through these events, and while Walt holds on to his racial grudges, he shows compassion and dignity towards the less fortunate people around him. Throughout the movie he persistently mispronounces the other characters’ names, calling Thao “Toad” and his girl fancy “Yum Yum”, even after they find themselves in a good standing relationship. His casual interactions with his barber reveal that it may not just be a racist grudge after all.

    What I loved most about Eastwood’s character in this film was that he turned a grumpy, hateful, racist old man, who would probably be viewed as an antagonist in any other movie, into a very likable and awesome main protagonist of the movie. His whole “bad ass” persona and old timer knowledge fortifies that likeabilty of his character, and really is one of the things that makes this movie so great.

  • In 2006, legendary American film star Clint Eastwood directed two films devoted to the WWII battle of Iwo Jima – Flags Of Our Fathers, and the Japanese-language Letters From Iwo Jima – tackling the themes of war from both perspectives in what was perhaps an unprecedented attempt by any filmmaker to do so.

    He was seventy-six at that time. Last year alone, he made two films – Changeling, and Gran Torino (Singapore got a 2009 release). I have nothing but respect for Eastwood whose commitment to making good films is nothing short of inspiring. Where does he get all that energy and stamina? We all wonder.

    Gran Torino is Eastwood’s biggest box-office hit to date, and yes, he directs, produces and stars in it. The film is an observation of the social woes that plague a small-town neighborhood in an American suburb. Eastwood plays Walt Kowalski, a disgruntled Korean War veteran who lives alone following the passing of his wife. He owns a home with a small lawn that he maintains daily; drinks cans of beer on his front porch, and spends most of his time with his old pet dog.

    One day, his shy Hmonk neighbor, Thao, tries to steal his 1972 Gran Torino under peer pressure from a gang, marking the inauspicious beginning of Walt versus the Gang. That is just a sideshow though. Walt’s main aim is to reform Thao, imparting to him life skills and lessons in a bid to change him from a nobody whom bullies love to pick on into a brave, street-smart individual with a goal in life.

    The character of Walt Kowalski brings back memories of Eastwood’s Dirty Harry persona of the 70s and 80s in a self-parodying way that results in more laughs than tears. The supporting cast is effective, especially Ahney Her (who plays Thao’s sister, Sue) who is a real find here. She brings a convincing depth to Sue who opens up the heart of Walt where others found it impossible.

    There is a gratifying scene in Gran Torino that shows this: Sue brings Walt over to her home for a feast and celebration with her family and relatives. The interracial camaraderie that occurs proves that there is no barrier to race and language as long one’s heart is open and one’s capacity to accept differences is large.

    Gran Torino has its fair share of gang violence and the use of profanity is startling at times. But it is a true reflection of the situation that we have all come to know as “social and moral decay”. Eastwood’s over-elaborate performance is excellent, though it does not rank as one of his best because it is more stereotypical than original. Unlike Changeling or the Oscar-winning Million Dollar Baby (2004), Gran Torino lacks powerful heart-tugging moments that are the hallmarks of an Eastwood picture. It has fantastic dialogue and character interplay though.

    GRADE: B+ (8/10 or 3.5 stars)
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