starring Clint Eastwood, Bee Vang, Ahney Her, Christopher Carley, John Carroll Lynch, Brian
Haley, Geraldine Hughes and Brian Howe
screenplay by Nick Schenk
directed by Clint Eastwood
This was a difficult movie to watch because in it Eastwood plays the most detestable, racist, purposefully-offensive, grouchy old man, retired auto worker Walt Kowolski. I felt very uncomfortable even in my own home listening to Walt’s stream of nasty racial slurs as he tries to push family, friends and neighbors further away, while also trying to adjust to the reality of living in a neighborhood slowly turned into a minority ethnic neighborhood during his lifetime there - especially with his Hmong neighbors. Whatever reserves of acting energy he has left at the age of 80, Eastwood pulls it all out to maximize his famous squint, sneer, toughness and growl. If there is an octogenarian you don’t want to mess with, it’s Clint Eastwood. From the perspective of film making tradecraft I would give Gran Torino five stars. But I give if four just because it was so horrible listening to Kowolski’s way of talking.
Walt Kowalski is widowed. Then he slowly befriends and mentors the Hmong neighbor boy, Thao, who tried to steal his prize 1972 Gran Torino car as part of a gang initiation. Instrumental in the whole film is Thao’s older sister, Sue. Without her the story wouldn’t work. I think the sister, Sue, should be Walt’s opposite number, because Thao is almost a ghost compared with her strong character. Anyway, grouchy old Walt grows closer to his alien neighbors than he ever was with his
...an over-educated 27-year-old virgin who holds the hands of superstitious old women and promising them eternity ...
own sons, so we can say he mellows in his old age and achieves some kind of reconciliation with people.
Much is made of Walt’s war combat experience in Koreain the early 1950s. In fact, when bad trouble occurs he reaches for his old rifle or pistol. What’s up with that? Doesn’t the U.S. government remove firearms from its decommissioned soldiers?
My favorite line from the movie is when he is accuses his parish priest as “an over-educated 27-year-old virgin who holds the hands of superstitious old women and promises them eternity” right to his face. Well, Christopher Carley did give a good performance as a quite young Father Janovich.