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Gran Torino
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Reviewed on 2009-01-06
Received[4]  out of 4 stars
Note: Two Movie Reviews submitted below for "Gran Torino" by Keith Cohen and Jolene.

Gran Torino
4 Stars (Out of four)

Review by Keith Cohen, "The Movie Guy"

Clint Eastwood, age 78, goes out in a blaze of glory in what may be his acting swan song. He plays disgruntled Korean War veteran Walt Kowalski.

The movie opens with Walt standing with a stern look on his face during his wife’s Catholic funeral.

The title of the movie refers to Walt’s prized possession – a vintage 1972 automobile in mint condition. Walt spent 50 years working at the Ford factory in Detroit and bought the car right off the assembly line.

He still lives in the same blue collar neighborhood, which has undergone radical ethnic changes. An American flag flies proudly in front of his house. This white-haired geezer likes to sit on his porch with his Labrador, Daisy, either drinking beer, smoking a cigarette or reading the newspaper. He still mows the front yard with an old-fashioned lawnmower.

His gruff demeanor and steady stream of racial epithets make him initially unapproachable. He has a reputation for being a handyman who takes pleasure in his ability to fix things. He takes great pride in a large tool collection that he has amassed over the years.

Walt’s neighbors are Hmong (the H is silent), a minority mountain-dwelling ethnic group from Southeast Asia who fought against communism during the Vietnam War. When the teenage neighbor boy Thao (Bee Vang) breaks into Walt’s garage and tries to steal the Gran Torino as part of a gang initiation dare, Walt’s golden years are interrupted.

He befriends Thao’s older sister Sue (Ahney Her) and is showered with gifts of food and flowers for being a heroic figure. He takes Thao under his wing, serving as mentor, role model and father figure. He gives Thao’s life a new direction. He finds that he has more in common with these refugees, who escaped a cruel past, than his own two sons and their spoiled-rotten families.

Vigilante justice rears its ugly head as an Asian gang seeks revenge for Walt’s interference in their plans to turn Thao into a criminal.

Eastwood duplicates his outstanding effort in “Million Dollar Baby.” From the director’s chair, he rounds an amateur cast into shape and polishes this project into a sparkling gem.

Screenwriter Nick Schenk has created an original story that is simply fantastic. The dialogue is outstanding and each scene is masterfully visualized.

Eastwood is an expert at delivering lines with meaning behind them. He has carved out an unforgettable character with a hard exterior but a heart of gold.

The National Board of Review was so impressed that it honored Eastwood as Best Actor. The supporting cast includes a persistent young red-headed priest (Christopher Carley) and a profanity-spewing barber (John Carroll Lynch).

The title song, co-written by Eastwood and his son Kyle, is sung by Eastwood over the end credits. It received a Golden Globes nomination for best original song.

Be sure to have tissues handy for an ending that is guaranteed to elicit sympathetic tears. This is one of the best movies to ever kick off a new year.

Gran Torino
4 Stars (Out of four)

Review by Jolene Mendez

Gran-Torino-poster Clint Eastwood steps back, no, make that bangs back in front of the camera for one hell of a role. Eastwood stars as Walt Kowalski in “Gran Torino”, who is a recent widower that seems angry at the World. Walt is a veteran of the Korean War and spends his days and nights watching his neighborhood change. He faces the challenge of accepting his neighbors who are Hmong and also dealing with the violence that has incorporated in the area due to gangs. Walt's anger boils over when his kid neighbor, Thao Vang Lor (Bee Vang) breaks into his garage at an attempt to steal his Gran Torino. Thao is not a bad kid he is just unsure of who he is and does not know where he fits in. After being coerced by his cousin, who happens to be a gang member, Thao decides to steal the Torino for the group of hoodlums. His attempt is foiled when Walt awakes to the disturbance.

Walt immediately is disgusted with Thao, but his sister Sue (Ahney Her) fights for his behalf and tries to explain to Walt that he is not a thief. Thao's mother begs for Walt to let Thao make up for his mistakes in anyway he can. She allows Thao to work for Walt until he has cleared his conscience of his wrong doing. Walt puts Thao to work in the neighborhood by cleaning things up and helping him out with whatever he needs. Walt eventually softens up on Sue's behalf and even attends a family BBQ at their home. Walt does not make many friends immediately, but his mannered side begins to shine through as he visits with the family. Walt even eventually befriends Thao.

Over the next few months Thao and Walt become very close friends. Walt gets Thao a job and even lets him borrow his Torino. An unexpected tragedy then occurs that send Thao and Walt into a raging frenzy. Walt is determined to keep Thao safe and out of harms way and to handle things on his own. Walt is a strong and independent being and is a very wise old man. That being said Walt puts a plan into attack and has every intention on following it through to the end

“Gran Torino” is a tale from an older man's perspective. The outlook for this bigoted old man who by a series of events opens his mind up to the idea of letting go of the past and acceptance of things for what they are. I am sure many people will be offended by this film, but if you can stick out through the many racist comments in the beginning you will find this film comes full circle. The movie is about educating audiences on being open minded and that if one old man's view can be changed than perhaps we can have hope for others alike. Clint Eastwood was on top of his game, taking us back to vintage Dirty Harry offering a remarkable performance that had me begging for more. Not only was his handy work on camera, but Eastwood directed this grand film as well. "Gran Torino" will knock your socks off, but be prepared to have some ear bleeding after all the graphic comments and cussing you will hear.


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