With a directing career that spans 37 years and an acting career of over 50 years, Clint Eastwood is still in top firing form at the age of 78. A macho man icon and a skilled filmmaker, Eastwood’s latest film Gran Torino is just as hard hitting, heartfelt, or powerfully dramatic as any other Eastwood classic and is easily one of the best films I’ve seen this year.
Aside from directorial duties, Clint dons the role of grizzled Korean war veteran Walt Kowalski, a recently widowed old timer living in a now heavily Hmong populated neighborhood. Annoyed by his shallow family and ever changing neighborhood, Walt has little pleasure left in his life but still puts everything on the line to save his neighbors from a local gang. Though he’s quickly embraced by the Hmong community, Walt treats this attention with disdain and is only further annoyed when a timid teenage Hmong boy named Tao Vang Lor, tries to steal his prized 1972 Gran Torino. The whole incident leads to Tao attempting to make amends by working for a reluctant Walt, while Walt in exchange teaches him how to be a man. As time goes on Walt and Tao form a friendship, but nothing is safe for the Lor family or the neighborhood as long as a local gang is terrorizing the streets. It’s at that point that Walt decides to intervene even if it means risking his own life.
Walt’s an interesting character as the story develops. Where at first we see him as grouchy, stubborn and filled with prejudice, we soon find that this rough exterior is really just the product of a hard life, only aggravated by Walt’s regrets of the Korean war. As his relationship with Tao and Tao’s sister Sue unfold, we really start to see him in a different light and soon enough are right behind him in his attempt to bring peace to the neighborhood.
Many have been saying that Gran Torino is vintage Eastwood and I’m of the same consensus. Sure we may be looking at a much older version of a man who used to exchange gunfire in the old west or the streets of San Francisco, but Clint still glistens with that timeless tough guy attitude. He’s just as intimidating as he’s ever been and still has plenty of raw energy to electrify audiences. The supporting Hmong cast, mostly made up of first time actors help the film in delivering a very genuine feel and the story is a perfect balance of drama, humor and not to mention all out thrills.
I’m on the fence as to exactly how much I like this movie. It will without a doubt rank fairly high on my “Best films of 2008” but I’m still dwelling on it. A lot of critics are saying that if this film is to receive any oscar nominations it will be for Eastwood’s performance. If you ask me Clint’s just doing his same old “Dirty Harry” routine. Don’t get me wrong I love him for it, but it’s not like anything we’ve never seen before. I believe this film is more deserving of a nomination for the ceremonies top prize “best picture”. There’s been a small group of films that have really left an impact on me this year and this is one of them.