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Gran Torino (2008) WS R4 Retail DVD
Crime, Drama, Thriller
Clint Eastwood directs and stars as the daddy of all grumpy old men in this surprising gem of a film.
"Grumpy old man" makes him sound like a caricature, and that couldn't be further from the truth. He walks like an elderly man now, and it's sad to see that; he has that awkwardness of limb, where perhaps his joints are sore. And Eastwood's face now appears to be carved from granite, permanently fixed into a weathered, intimidating scowl and piercing glare; his voice is gruffer than ever, and his barely contained rage is still bubbling at the surface. In Gran Torino, there are definite echoesmore… of Dirty Harry, and it's a little like bumping into an old friend. One who'd knack you if he thought you were lookin' at him funny, but an old friend nonetheless and, thankfully, it takes thirty years off him.
He plays Walt Kowalksi - a man who hates what the world has become, hates that his wife has just passed away, hates his kids (who, in his defense, are crappy excuses for family), hates his increasingly ghetto neighbourhood but refuses to move and, most of all, hates the influx of Koreans, or Hmong.
His next door neighbours especially grate on his nerves, and there are plenty of chuckles to be had in his comments to and about them, intially muttered under his breath and, latterly, openly to their faces. But when the young lad next door - goes by the name of Tao, or Toad, according to Walt - tries to steal his prized 1972 Gran Torino, his family force him to redeem himself by working for a recalcitrant Kowalski. Add to that, Sue - Tao's sister - is a lovely, bossy, guileless charmer who is wholly immune to our anti-hero's gruffness and racism, and she slowly brings him into the fold until he's almost accepted as one of their own - albeit the vaguely unsettling uncle no-one wants to sit next to.
The acting throughout is fantastic. It's interesting: I initially thought Sue and Tao (Ahney Her and Bee Vang respectively) were bad actors... but I quickly realised that it's just their mannerisms and cadence are authentic Hmong, and I've never really experienced it before. They carry with them a feeling of discomfort: it's not discomfort with being in front of the screen; rather, it's the discomfort these young people feel at being in this hostile neighbourhood away from the land they're used to, and it's excellently portrayed.
Eastwood, as a director, is really quite wonderful when it comes to creating atmosphere - he proves that with Mystic River and, more recently, Changeling. In Gran Torino, his depiction of a rough part of Detroit is bleak and concrete and rather bereft of goodness, so the burgeoning friendhsip between himself and these two children is a beautiful counterpoint. Equally, it's impossible to predict where this movie ends up... and it's all the better for that. The very final scene, however, is of a road by the sea lined with trees and flooded with sunlight, and it stays on screen seemingly endlessly; after the cityscape dereliction of the film, it's like gulping in great breaths of fresh air. Very special indeed.
Gran Torino came at the very end of the year, and has easily slid into 2008's top 5 films. If this doesn't garner itself an Oscar or two, something has gone severely awry, and I recommend it absolutely.
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- Gran Torino (2008) WS R4 Retail DVD
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- 10/06/09 by Sarge!
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