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Gran Torino (2009)

Rating: 7/10

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 15

Gran Torino was a strange film for me. I was thoroughly entertained while watching it, but now, a day later, I’m not sure it’s that great of a movie. It’s saving grace, though, is Clint Eastwood. Much of the rest of the cast is decent in places, almost unwatchable in other places. It makes one wonder what exactly Eastwood was thinking as a director—was the take in the basement really the best available? But again, it’s Clint, and even playing a racist, bitter, angry—and did I mention racist?—old man, he elevates a mediocre, predictable movie into something worth seeing.

Walt Kowalski’s (Eastwood) wife has just died, and he doesn’t seem to have a friend in the world. Not his two self-absorbed sons and their equally self-absorbed families, not his young and inexperienced priest, and certainly not his neighbors, all of whom are nothing more to him than a series of racial slurs and stereotypes. But when gangs threaten the neighborhood, Walt unwillingly begins to forge friendships with some of those neighbors—and when the threats lead to violence, Walt goes all Clint Eastwood on them.

I think that this is a film that benefits from being seen in a theater with a crowd. People laugh, people cry—and nothing brings folks together like Clint Eastwood with a gun. On one hand, this is one of those movies where you basically know everything that’s going to happen, you’re just not sure of the specifics of how it’s going to get there. It’s that familiarity that makes this a perfect crowd film, but it’s the group mentality love that numbed me to some of the movie’s flaws. For one, though not bad for most of the film, Bee Vang has moments—big moments—in which his character, Thao, is called upon for more range than he can handle. It’s distracting, and detracts from some of the film’s most powerful scenes. I cannot say enough, though, about the screen presence of Clint Eastwood. At 78, he still commands that we watch every growl and grimace, and even when the story seems weighted down in predictability, Eastwood shines. Also, for a movie with a lot of serious themes going on, there’s lot of funny lines, and I found myself laughing out loud more than once when, in a politically correct world, I probably shouldn’t have. This is one to see, flaws and all—a movie that will make people feel sad and satisfied—and it’s a showcase for one of America’s true movie stars.

It's Got: Clint.

It Needs: A better supporting cast.


A must-see movie, even the flaws in this film can’t detract from the brilliant performance of its director and star, Clint Eastwood.