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Awesome: 17.5%
Worth A Look: 27.5%
Just Average: 15%
Pretty Crappy: 11.25%

4 reviews, 56 user ratings

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Gran Torino
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by brianorndorf

"St. Paul, Minnesota: The Movie"
4 stars

Never the ambassador of understatement, Clint Eastwood fits “Gran Torino” comfortably alongside the rest of his directorial oeuvre. A pleasurably performed character study of racism and redemption, “Torino” doesn’t have much nuance to soothe the demanding filmgoer; the pleasures of the picture emerge from the vigor of the acting and the manner Eastwood sticks to perhaps outdated storytelling techniques to preserve his version of tension.

Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood) is a retired Detroit auto mechanic recently widowed, left to tend to his impeccable yard and fend off the selfish needs of his children. Watching his neighborhood, and to a larger extent younger generations, fall into disrepair, Walt has maintained a rich passion for bigotry to keep him company since his dark days in the Korean War. Observing the violent predicament of a young Hmong neighbor boy named Thao (Bee Vang), Walt is compelled to intervene, driving away local gang members and earning the respect of the Hmong community. Finding the culture immediately distasteful, Walt is soon won over by Hmong traditions, befriending Thao with hopes to teach him some self-respect before the gang activity worsens.

The screenplay for “Gran Torino” by Minnesotan Nick Schnek is steeped in textured Midwestern culture, utilizing the discomfort between old-guard military men who refuse to abandon their comfortable domiciles and the melting pot that surrounds them, erecting a human story of tentative respect and the clearing of conscience. It’s not a scholastic take on race relations, but Schnek understands the venomous mentality of men like Walt, who live and breathe outdated American values, only to find their faith rewarded by the degeneration of respect in the youth and the rise of foreign perspectives in their own backyard.

Eastwood plays up Walt’s grotesque behaviors to the hilt. Having lost his beloved wife, dealing with adult children who want to put him in a home, finding his health deteriorating, and now inclined to interfere with an ethnicity he despises, it makes perfect sense for Walt to storm around with a mammoth chip on his shoulder. Eastwood’s growly acting is what holds “Torino” away from the jaws of melodrama, returning to his teeth-clenched, asphalt-voiced roots, as though Walt was an elderly version of Harry Callahan. Spitting out every Asian racial epithet known to man to sell Walt’s calloused exterior, the role finds perfect concert with Eastwood’s specific haggard range, assembling a character of gun-happy action, beer-soaked reflection, and Geritol-fueled defiance that could only be sold by the screen legend.

The majority of “Torino” concerns Walt coming to terms with his new Hmong friends, led by Thao’s sister Sue (Ahney Her, in a lovely, fresh performance), who takes special care to bring Walt out of his shell of calcified hatred. The film’s supreme moments are the ones of Walt finding his footing at Hmong gatherings, failing socialization opportunities, but lovin’ the cooking. The crux of the story belongs to Walt and Thao, born from a thwarted gang-initiation attempt to steal Walt’s prized 1972 Gran Torino, a classic car of immense worth but also a reminder of a simpler life for Walt during his golden factory days. “Torino” doesn’t play the relationship for “Odd Couple” laughs, but more as an unlikely father/son partnership, with Thao learning to better himself through hard work and avoiding the lure of crime. While Vang’s performance lacks polish and range, the relationship remains an engrossing central piece of the “Torino” puzzle.

Eastwood, who’s made a career out of classically mounted simplicity, doesn’t tax “Torino” past obvious declarations of hate and remorse. Walt’s arc is easily telegraphed and predictably resolved, yet “Torino” finds an ease with itself that helps to swallow a few terrible scenes (notably the ones where Walt bonds with his like-minded barber) and Eastwood’s constant underlining of Walt’s spittle-slicked prejudices. The direction is clean enough to move past a few dramatic potholes, though it leads to a conclusion heavy with symbolic intention, perhaps a bit too graceful for comfort.

Unofficially billed as Eastwood’s swan song to acting, “Torino” certainly returns the star to his fist-first roots with extreme satisfaction. The finished film doesn’t quite live up to Eastwood’s typically magnetic screen conduct, but “Gran Torino” isn’t concerned with a wide footprint. It’s a minimal story of redemption, and a fairly successful one at that.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=18095&reviewer=404
originally posted: 12/12/08 15:10:40
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User Comments

9/21/17 morris campbell good eastwood vehicle 4 stars
7/04/17 Lisa What a load of melodramatic crap. Overrated garbage. 1 stars
6/24/17 Danny Awful acting, and Eastwood's as usual about as subtle as a sledgehammer. 1 stars
2/28/15 stanley welles clumsy and crude, yet preposterously entertaining throughout 3 stars
6/09/14 FireWithFire Not-so-subtle message: White people need to die off. 1 stars
4/05/12 Adam Sandler Movie goers and critics don't look at movies with the same perspective. Who needs critics? 5 stars
10/14/11 Dave Agreed with Peter's review. Spot on. 2 stars
11/13/10 sam bonner people love this movie, that is all that matters 5 stars
7/03/10 puddleduck Excellent story, unfortunate some don't get what this movie is explores. 5 stars
4/18/10 MattyC. Holy cow. How did anyone like this trash? HORRIBLE acting!! Painfully pretentious. 1 stars
3/27/10 BigGuy If he was a Korean war vet, his first car would have been a 55 Chevy--get your dates right! 1 stars
1/09/10 pinter terrible cliched film 1 stars
11/28/09 Flounder Ham-fisted screenplay almost kills pic, but Clint's performance is worth price of admission 4 stars
9/27/09 The Grinch Stumbles into melodrama here and there, but heart's in the right place, 4 stars
8/31/09 MP Bartley Not exactly subtle, but Eastwood pulls you into it regardless. 4 stars
8/04/09 charley hayes Some ordinary acting but older eastwood much more enjoyable than young clint 4 stars
8/03/09 David A. An old grump tries to be a tough guy--lame, stupid, and boring! 1 stars
7/15/09 Brett P. An AWESOME movie,and the music by Clint is BRILLIANT. 5 stars
7/08/09 Benny Lava Hammy acting and 90% useless characters set in a most boring and predictable storyline. 1 stars
7/04/09 Monday Morning Pretty disappointing but better than most of the crap they're making today. 3 stars
7/01/09 Josie Cotton is a goddess A great movie. 5 stars
6/22/09 devastator very racist stupid film, bad script full of epithets 1 stars
6/20/09 L&Y We loved it....such a quiet movie left such a great impression 5 stars
6/17/09 jurisprudence terrible, terrible and terrible. Clint please retire 1 stars
6/17/09 Simon bitchslap reviewers certainly overrate subtlety. Flawed film tho, a few redeeming scenes 3 stars
6/12/09 action movie fan some scenes were good but mainly too talky and dull 2 stars
5/03/09 AllenK Sad that prior posters missed the confessional subtlety. Finely crafted; will see again 5 stars
4/21/09 malcolm grumpy old Dirty Harry 3 stars
4/06/09 Michael You're spot on. This film is so camp !! dreadful clichés.Thoroughly soporific. No subtlety. 1 stars
4/04/09 Jacqueline It was bad. It was ugly. The only good thing is that it ended. 1 stars
4/04/09 K. Sear One of the most poorly assembled films I have ever seen. 1 stars
3/01/09 Ryan Lloyd Yes the teenageractors were shocking, but the script is witty and clint eastwood is as neas 5 stars
2/28/09 R.W. Welch Clint channels Archie Bunker, with a twist. C+ 3 stars
2/01/09 matt the insults were funny 4 stars
1/31/09 Koitus Some of the story = confusing (cousin attacks own family); what were medical test results? 3 stars
1/25/09 Peta I felt like I was watching a D grade tele-movie. Truly cringe worthy! 1 stars
1/21/09 Jackie Finally someone tells it like it us. What an awful, awkward, disjointed film. Hilarious! 1 stars
1/20/09 don eremin people do change..wonderful 5 stars
1/19/09 Ginny Monroe Perfect movie, I loved it! 5 stars
1/17/09 Mike Eastwood was great. Couldn't get over the terrible cast. 2 stars
1/16/09 phyllis Hated this film. Horrible acting. NO redeeming value. Obnoxious and ignorant. 1 stars
1/16/09 matt a near masterpiece, but felt a little too long. 4 stars
1/15/09 Aesop Best Actor. Best Director. Best Picture. 4 stars
1/12/09 D from Indy Redemption, regret, we needed more Walt back story, but Loved it. 4 stars
1/10/09 George (DUKE) Eastwood perfect...stereotypes RIGHT ON THE MONEY...true...funny 4 stars
1/10/09 Luisa Terrible asian actors, but Clint was great, funny!! 4 stars
1/09/09 Jess The cast seemed amateur because they ARE amateurs! Non-actors! 5 stars
1/03/09 John Seems your cosy middle-class education precluded working-class culture and social mores. 4 stars
12/28/08 Drew It was a great movie 5 stars
12/28/08 mr.mike Unfortunately the character is more Archie Bunker than Paul Kersey. 4 stars
12/27/08 caiphn Loved it. 4 stars
12/24/08 WaltSobchak It was hilarious. The song at the end knocks a star off. Stop singing Clint. Please. 4 stars
12/21/08 Andrew Your way off Peter. Its a great movie in a time where there aren't that many. 5 stars
12/14/08 Man Out 6 Bucks Clint puts multicultural mythology on high contrast. Freeze frame from a day in south LA 5 stars
12/12/08 bc Way to start with a misplaced modifier, Brian. You're describing Eastwood, not the film. 4 stars
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  12-Dec-2008 (R)
  DVD: 09-Jun-2009


  DVD: 09-Jun-2009

Directed by
  Clint Eastwood

Written by
  Nick Schenk

  Clint Eastwood
  Cory Hardrict
  Geraldine Hughes
  Brian Haley
  Dreama Walker
  Brian Howe

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