When Clint Eastwood makes a movie, I watch it. When Clint Eastwood is in the movie, it is bonus points. Ever since Mystic River, I have been borderline-obsessed with his films. I have gone back and watched many of his older films, and have many sitting on the shelf that I am trying to get to. So, when I first heard that he was directing and starring in Gran Torino, I couldn’t wait. It finally opened wide this weekend and made it to St. Louis. So, with my two favorite movie watchers* with me, I went.
Gran Torino opens with Walt Kowalski, played by Clint Eastwood, standing at his wife’s funeral. He is a sour, scowling old man. His two sons Steve and Mitch are sitting in the pew complaining about how he is disapproving of their children’s dress. One grandson is wearing a Detroit Lions football jersey, and his granddaughter is wearing an outfit not fit for public, let alone a funeral. Next, we meet Father Janovich who gives the service. Father Janovich is also a persistent force in the film. Following the funeral, they all go back to the Kowalski house. Here we see that Walt’s grandchildren are scared of him, as are his children and their spouses. Walt is basically a crotchety old man that scowls and grumbles about everyone and everything.
To get away from it all, Walt and his dog Daisy go outside. This is where the story really begins. His neighbors are a Hmong family. The family consists of Tao and his older sister Sue that live with their mother and grandmother. They are celebrating the birth of a new child in the family. Walt makes his feelings of the foreigners clear. From this point, there are enough racial slurs to tide me over for some time. From this point on, most of the story focuses on Walt and his relationship that forms with the two children next door. Tao tries to steal Walt’s prized possession, his 1972 Gran Torino, to prove to his gang member cousin that he is not a spineless as they think. He fails when Walt catches him. The family is then dishonored by Tao’s actions, and he is sentenced by his family to help Walt for an undisclosed amount of time. In the mean time, Sue is walking home with a white guy, named as Trey, and runs into trouble with a different gang. Walt happens to be driving by, and helps the situation. Later, I found out that the white guy is Clint’s son Scott.
On the drive back home, Walt realizes that Sue is a good girl, and he digs the whole to start burying the hatchet. Also, Tao and Walt bond over tools. This puts the hatchet in the whole. After Tao is released from his punishment, he still helps Walt. This buries that proverbial hatchet. Now, Walt tries to make a man of Tao. He introduces him to talking like a man, via the local barber. He gets him a job working construction.
Finally, Walt realizes that the gang is a problem that Tao and Sue cannot over come themselves, and the neighborhood is not willing to take a stand against them. But, Walt being a Korean War veteran, he will.
Clint Eastwood knows what he is doing behind a camera. His use of light in a few key scenes was great. The score was good, and I thought it was by Clint who has done his own scores for awhile, but it was actually done by his son Kyle. As much as I loved this film, I think most of it had to do with the fact that I appreciate Clint Eastwood’s acting and directing. No other actor could have played Walt. Clint, also, had a rough time carrying the movie, since all the Hmong actors were almost unwatchable. I wonder if they filmed the movie in reverse order, since it seemed that they got worse. During one of the final scenes, I had to choke back a laugh at Tao. It was funny, but the scene was meant to be serious. Verdict: While I loved this film, my wife was only slightly entertained by it. If you like Clint Eastwood movies, you are going to see it anyway. With a running time under the two-hour mark, Gran Torino is worth the watch in theaters.