‘Gran Torino’ Proves Eastwood Can Still Make Our Days

gran-torino-movie2008 was a very good year for films, but “Gran Torino” stood head and shoulders above the competition because it seems to be from a different era of cinema, sharing many traits with pictures from the ’70s.

With that said, it’s remarkable that the Academy Awards ignored this film completely at the Oscar ceremony. It didn’t receive as much as one nomination, though Eastwood had been a winner in the past for “Unforgiven” and “Million Dollar Baby.”

In spite of that, “Gran Torino” is a stunning tribute to the vigilante genre that Eastwood helped create. Fully understanding that his “Dirty Harry” days are behind him, Eastwood puts the focus on the fact this man is aging, but still sneaks in some of his trademark bravado at times.

The result is a smart and mature motion picture that follows Walt Kowalski, who just lost his wife and has never been close to his two greedy sons. Spending his days drinking Blue Ribbon on his porch with Daisy, his old, yellow lab, who is all that he has left, Kowalski is far from a likable character..

As a matter of fact, you get the idea that Kowalski hates everyone.

But when the Vietnamese family next door is threatened by a gang, it is suddenly time for an older version of “ Dirty Harry” to appear.

Seeing Eastwood return to that type of role is a thrill for the viewer and seemingly for him as well, as he gives one of his best performances in recent years. His gruff demeanor also hides a very decent person – a classic Eastwood staple. You never truly feel that he is a bad guy, even when he is making racist remarks to his neighbors.

This is just one of the elements in”Gran Torino”that make it the great film. However, the most important one is the poignant and unlikely friendship between the characters of Kowalski (Eastwood) and Thao Vang Lor, played by an exceptional newcomer Bee Vang. Kowalski is a hardened racist and a Korean War veteran and Thao is a young Vietnamese teenager that tries to steal Kowalski’s prized Gran Torino.

Eventually though Kowalski  grows fond of Lor and the two bond, as Kowalski tries to teach the young boy how to act like a man. This is evident in a wonderful scene when he takes Thao to the barbershop to teach him how to talk like a man.

Another great performance is given by another newcomer, Ahney Her, as Sue Lor, who is confident in her performance and brings charm to the role. A bit of a wisecracker, she still has  a big heart. Her scenes with Eastwood are excellent because she accepts Kowalski for who he is and knows that he is a good man.

Eastwood also adds in many scenes that explore the Vietnamese culture. None of the language is translated into English but they provide a true sense of respect for their beliefs and customs.

That element is rarely seen in this genre and gives the film a unique spin.

Sometimes the human condition requires us to do more then what we are simply asked and this movie addresses that topic head on. This message is one that will linger in the mind for days after the credits roll.

As a result, “Gran Torino” is hauntingly poetic without being overly preachy.

It is also a reminder that tough guys can still rule the cinema.

Let him make your day.

About Anthony Benedetto 153 Articles
I have always had a tremendous passion for the cinema. For me, movies provide a great escape. When done right, the characters and stories are something that I am instantly drawn into. Over the years, I’ve unintentionally become a movie encyclopedia that I often find myself the recipient of late night phone calls from my friends while at Blockbuster [One such conversation between the Editor of this site and the film “Redbelt” immediately comes to mind.] As far as my preferences go however, I love both the cult cinema and the classics. My love of film ranges from features such as “Amadeus” to “Sorority Babes in the Slime Ball Bowl-A- Rama.” I have a long range of film heroes as well that include, Michael J. Fox, Lloyd Kaufman, Robby Benson, Michael Caine and Jeff Bridges. On this site, I hope to teach people about cult cinema and have them rent films that they normally would not, turning you into the monster that I have become. Someday, I hope to be the star and director of my cult film, employing the old stop motion techniques used in films like “Flesh Gordon.”

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