Gran Torino

  • 2009-04-02
  • By Kate McIntosh

TOUGH GUY: Eastwood portrays an embittered old loner struggling to come to terms with today's world.

Action star Clint Eastwood delivers a powerhouse performance as embittered Korean War veteran Walt Kowalski in "Gran Torino," which he also directs.

The film is a compelling study of the insidious nature of racism and the tentacle twin effects of hate and intolerance.

Walt is a gun loving, foul mouthed loner, who becomes increasingly resentful of the immigrants that now dominate his neighborhood.

The dour faced widower spends his days guzzling beer and hurling racial slurs at his neighbors.
He begrudges the working class immigrant families and ethnic strife and hankers after a time when white men ruled the American suburbs.

But, despite his obvious bitterness at the world, Walt still remains a man of principle at heart, and when gang bangers threaten an Asian immigrant family living next door, he comes to their aid, driving their tormentors away with a rifle.

A tentative friendship begins after Walt wakes the next morning to find his porch littered with gifts from the grateful family.

He takes the family's well behaved children Thao (Bee Vang) and Sue (Ahney Her) under his wing, soon developing a gruff affection for the teenagers.
It becomes apparent that for all of his anger and bluster, Walt is essentially a lonely man.
Despite this unexpected friendship, "Gran Torino" never strays into sentimentality, nor does it attempt to emotionally manipulate its audience.

Walt's redemption is more of a slow burn effect, not the sudden, miraculous event so often portrayed in Hollywood blockbusters.

The film instead explores Walt's quiet struggle to deal with his prejudices, a hangover from his experiences in the Korean War, and the changing world around him.
Eastwood has carved an illustrious career playing tough men of unflinching character, most notably as Dirty Harry.

In recent years the screen icon has been making a name for himself behind the camera, directing acclaimed films such as "Million Dollar Baby" and "Letter to Iwo Jima."
However, Eastwood's inspired performance in "Gran Torino" shows he has lost none of his edge on screen.
"Gran Torino" is a simple, compellingly told story, imbued with quiet dignity and humanity.
In a word: masterful.


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