Gran Torino isn’t a bad way for Clint Eastwood the actor to go out (if this is indeed his last starring role), but Eastwood the director lets us down.
Walt (Eastwood) is s a recently widowed grumpy old racist living in a neighborhood which has been taken over by the large immigrant population he refers to throughout the film as “gooks,” “chinks,” “zipperheads,” “barbarians,” and other terms of affection. Charming.
Walt is inconvenienced further when he becomes intertwined in the lives of his neighbors, a Hmong family, when the young boy (Bee Vang) is recruited by a local gang to steal Walt’s 1972 Gran Torino. Against his better judgement Walt takes the kid under his wing, finds him a job, and even helps out his sister Sue (Ahney Her) when she gets accosted on the street.
I could go into further detail about the other storylines involving a persistent priest (Christopher Carley) and Frank’s sons and grandchildren with whom he has nothing in common, but each are so predictable simply vaguely mentioning them is all that’s necessary. Truthfully, I’ve amazed I found the energy to even do that much.
Although it’s immensely enjoyable watching Eastwood chew and spit out scenery in this one-note role the rest of the film is marred with many problems including a cast of actors not playing on the same level (many of the Homang are acting for the first time), pedestrian camera work (this is suppossed to be an Eastwood film after all), and disappointing final act complete with shameless symbolism and overt sentimentality.
At its best Gran Torino is politically incorrect fun with Eastwood grunting and showing his contempt for everyone around him. At its worst it’s trite, heavy handed, and, most unforgivable of all, largely forgettable. I’d still give it a marginal recommendation for Eastwood’s performance, but the movie itself (much like his film from earlier this year) is a bit of a disappointment.
Grand Torino – 3 Stars (out of 5)