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STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
15
Cast
Clint Eastwood
Cory Hardrict
Brian Howe
Dreama Walker
Bee Vang
Ahney Her
Christopher Carley.
Directors
Clint Eastwood.
Screenwriters
Nick Schenk.
Running Time
116 minutes

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Gran Torino
If this is Clint’s acting swan song, it’s a fitting tribute…


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Plot
Grouchy bigot Walt Kowalski (Eastwood) thinks the world has gone to hell. Then an attempted theft of his 1972 Ford Gran Torino, an unintentional act of heroism and an uneasy relationship with his despised Asian neighbours prod Walt towards a kind of reluctant redemption.


Review
Gran Torino
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Everyone always notes that The Shootist was the perfect elegiac last role for John Wayne to play, the grizzled, terminally ill gunman poignantly strapping on his shooters for one last showdown. Clint Eastwood is without doubt familiar with that film; it was made by his mentor and friend Don Siegel between Don and Clint’s collaborations on Dirty Harry and Escape From Alcatraz. There is speculation that the 78 year-old Eastwood’s irresistible turn in Gran Torino may be his final role as an actor. We hope he will be hale, hearty and helming fine films for a fair few years yet. We even suspect he could be tempted in front of the camera again if a plum part presents itself. But it certainly feels as though he took a long, close look at projects with an eye to bringing down the curtain on his own iconic acting career of 53 years with just such an apt and valedictory role as Wayne found.

If so, he’s struck 24-carat gold with Nick Schenk’s screenplay and a hellacious turn as disgruntled Walt Kowalski. For a while you may think this picture is about Dirty Harry as an OAP. The story begins with the funeral of Walt’s beloved — and evidently saintly — wife. As soon as we see him standing militarily erect by the coffin, it’s clear he looks not so much mournful as furious, at everyone from God and the ridiculously youthful, sincere Catholic priest, Father Janovich (Christopher Carley), down to his obnoxious grandchildren. While Walt listens to prayers and platitudes his tightly controlled wrath begins to emanate from his core in a low, feral growl. (Although his ire is understandable, it is surely improbable that his two sons, however strained their relationships with their old man, would let their sulky children come to their grandmother’s funeral dressed as slobbishly and sluttily as this clan are. The granddaughter who blatantly can’t wait for him to die so she can get his car even sends text messages during the funeral.)

Walt is a decorated Korean War veteran and retired auto worker at the Ford plant where he helped assemble the now-classic car he keeps in pristine condition in his garage. The car and his old dog Daisy seem to be the only things left in the world he cares to talk to. Mostly he fills his days with DIY, when he isn’t sitting on the porch swigging beer and grumpily surveying the rundown Detroit neighbourhood he considers blighted by the influx of immigrants and multiple ethnicities. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to him that they have been as betrayed by the promise of the American Dream as he feels he has been. The family next door are Hmong, the hill people from Laos and Vietnam who were persecuted and finally allowed to settle in the US because they aided the Americans during the Vietnam War. But Asians are all lumped together as ‘Chinks’ and numerous other nasty words to Walt, who has horrible memories of Korea and is mad as hell that one of his sons drives a Japanese SUV.
The mild-mannered teenager next door, Thao (Bee Vang, bearing up beautifully in Eastwood’s aura), is under heavy pressure to join an Asian gang of thugs who coerce him to boost Walt’s Gran Torino. This is when they find out the ornery old coot is locked and loaded. When an ensuing contretemps between the gangbangers and shy, bookish Thao spills into Walt’s tidy garden, his dander really gets up. Trust us, when he tersely commands through gritted teeth, “Get... off...my... lawn,” only the dimmest offender would stick around. He doesn’t need his youth or even the gun to be as mean and tough as a man can be. He only has to turn up scowling and squinting to telegraph menace and the conviction he can back it up. “Ever notice how you come across somebody once in a while that you shouldn’t have messed with? That’s me.” The Hmong neighbours, pathetically grateful Walt has saved Thao’s bacon — not what he had in mind — press unwanted gifts on him and insist Thao do chores for him to make amends. Grudgingly Walt puts the kid to work, decides rather hilariously to “man him up” and thaws just a degree or two under the cheerful, confident chatter of Thao’s sassy, engaging sister, Sue (Ahney Her, who is a delight). He doesn’t get too chummy, mind, insisting on addressing Thao as “Toad” or “Eggroll”.

Walt’s an equal opportunity abuser. His extensive vocabulary of racial slurs and epithets includes words no-one outside the Aryan Nation has probably heard out loud for decades, and he’s not afraid to hurl them indiscriminately and with insane, death-wish insensitivity at any gangbanger, refugee, burglar or little old lady who crosses his path. He even publicly berates the persistent young priest (who promised Walt’s wife he’d put Kowalski right with Jesus and is incautiously determined to follow through) with an embarrassing sexual aspersion. When he confronts a group of young black wastrels hassling Sue, he nonchalantly offers them a greeting so gasp-inducing they are as disbelievingly thunderstruck as the audience. He shouldn’t be funny — and Eastwood keeps himself tightly in check, never allowing Walt to slip into anything close to nice, let alone charming — but he is, so awesome and awful and outrageous he’s the most fascinating misanthrope since Jack Nicholson’s homophobic misery-guts in As Good As It Gets.

In lesser hands this plot could have a tritely familiar air. It could very easily have dwindled into crude comedy or descended into an obvious sentimentality. But Eastwood the actor grabs you with his first growl and has you between his clenched teeth for the duration. Eastwood the director shapes the picture into another of his latter-day contemplations on violence, vengeance and racial tension in American culture, and a moving face-off with the prospect of death to boot. His direction is lean, clean and spare, with no fat and no sagging. It’s an extraordinary piece of work to have done back-to-back with Changeling — obviously smaller in budget and cast, much simpler in design, confined to a handful of settings, but just as meticulously, astutely executed.

Eastwood has also distilled into Walt Kowalski his life in films, the character and his distinctive way with a phrase a nod to every memorable hardass Eastwood has portrayed, from The Man With No Name and Harry Callahan to Will Munny. Walt is no Magnificent One, cleaning up the ’hood for the poor immigrants he’s taken to his awakened heart. Oh no. It flirts with that, but subtly, smoothly shifts gears from the Alf Garnett act and the odd-couple bonding bit into something more painful, affecting and meaningful with a totally unexpected twist that really is magnificent, befitting both the character and Eastwood’s career.

And do not rush off at the end. Anyone who vowed never to forgive Eastwood for his insecure song stylings in Paint Your Wagon will be startled into chuckling, affectionate submission at the end credits by the appropriateness of Clint’s gravelly delivery of the self-penned title track (co-written with son Kyle and Jamie Cullum).


Verdict
Simply terrific, enormously watchable and an absolute must for all Eastwood fans. Gotta say it: this film will make your day.


Reviewed by Angie Errigo

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Gran Torino
Empire Star Rating

RE: "GRRRRRRR...GET OFF MY LAWN"

ok ... More

Posted by Achtung Englander at 15:29, 08 September 2009 | Report This Post


RE: "GRRRRRRR...GET OFF MY LAWN"

But the whole film up until that point is about the relationship he built up with his neighbors - that's what the film is about and why I think so many people like it. It shows a man who's attitude ] change. I thought the gradual way that his opinion shifted was quite well done. ... More

Posted by gunstar at 15:19, 08 September 2009 | Report This Post


RE: "GRRRRRRR...GET OFF MY LAWN"

SPOLIERS He was dying right and his last wish was to give his life to save some Chinese people he knew for 2 weeks after harbouring a predujice of Koreans for over 60 years. Wow - what a transition   During his confession he didn't even feel remorse for the Koreans ... More

Posted by Achtung Englander at 15:04, 08 September 2009 | Report This Post


RE: "GRRRRRRR...GET OFF MY LAWN"

L: Achtung Englander are you guys all on drugs ? It was riddled with cliche characters and an ending that was utterly unrealistic. hat was unrealistic about the ending? Not baiting, just interested. ... More

Posted by gunstar at 14:58, 08 September 2009 | Report This Post


RE: "GRRRRRRR...GET OFF MY LAWN"

are you guys all on drugs ?   It was riddled with cliche characters and an ending that was utterly unrealistic. ... More

Posted by Achtung Englander at 14:52, 08 September 2009 | Report This Post


"GRRRRRRR...GET OFF MY LAWN"

Funny, Moving, Powerful, Gripping and as usual a superb performance from Clint Eastwood. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by THE DALTONATOR at 12:41, 08 September 2009 | Report This Post


RE: Quintessential Eastwood

I just saw this last night and I must say it is the best film I've seen this year.  I absolutely loved it and can't recommend it enough. I've always been a fan of Eastwood and he seems to be getting better and better as a director.  The man is truly a genius.  ... More

Posted by LEEJGM at 09:46, 08 September 2009 | Report This Post


Quintessential Eastwood

Liked it, but why do Warner Bros films have such low volume on their DVD's!!! I can never hear the dialogue!! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by stevos at 21:47, 23 July 2009 | Report This Post


Didn't Expect This To Be Good.

I was blown away by this film, I didn't expect it to be so damn good. At first, I thought "Yawn, yet a another Clint Eastwood film that's will bag Oscars and be one of those masterpieces people say it is." Then I saw it at my rental place so I gave it a chance, well I was wrong all the way. Eastwood is amazing, totally outstanding this is his best role ever. The film is gripping stuff from the first fifteen minutes to the last few seconds, Walt is a brilliant character and wouldn't be ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by joanna likes films at 09:54, 28 June 2009 | Report This Post


Didn't Expect This To Be Good.

I was blown away by this film, I didn't expect it to be so damn good. At first, I thought "Yawn, yet a another Clint Eastwood film that's will bag Oscars and be one of those masterpieces people say it is." Then I saw it at my rental place so I gave it a chance, well I was wrong all the way. Eastwood is amazing, totally outstanding this is his best role ever. The film is gripping stuff from the first fifteen minutes to the last few seconds, Walt is a brilliant character and wouldn't be ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by joanna likes films at 09:54, 28 June 2009 | Report This Post


Gran Torino Works

Having just watched this movie and having re-read the Empire verdict I'm struggling to understand why only 4 stars were offered. This movie reminded me of Million Dollar Baby in some ways, not least the tear provoking ending, even if the outcome was a little more predictable. Another great acting and directorial performance by Eastwood. Superb. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Bradlfc at 00:38, 28 June 2009 | Report This Post


Thought this was absolutely brilliant. Was expecting something completely different when watching but I was pleasantly surprised. A must see and an absolutely electrifying performance by Eastwood. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by PureAinmhi at 22:51, 13 June 2009 | Report This Post


Fantastic

It has been a long time since I have left the cinema without being able to say anything more than…utterly brilliant. A fantastic piece of work by Eastwood and his team. Extremely powerful, funny and moving. A film that demonstrates why Clint Eastwood is the legend that he is. Why 4 stars Empire? ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by peterditoro at 14:02, 11 June 2009 | Report This Post


RE: Gran Torino

Here's my opinion on this film: Viewed – 03 March 2009 Cinema Isn’t it great when you go into a film expecting something in particular, only to discover its something else entirely? That was the case with this come-back vehicle for screen legend Clint Eastwood after a wilderness period directing rather than starring. Clint plays an elderly war veteran who has just lost his wife, is somewhat estranged from his two sons (despite their best intentions) and lives in a street where most... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by craigmick at 18:23, 17 May 2009 | Report This Post


2 hours of utter bollocks...

...punctuated by half-a-dozen moments of pure Clint cool. For a spectacularly rubbish film, this is rather good. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Jim Bob at 21:04, 01 May 2009 | Report This Post


just very good movie .

Clint Eastwood has done a amazing job on this movie. Also this movie got to be. One Clint best movie ! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by soulfood at 22:17, 28 April 2009 | Report This Post


It was quite good, but mostly due to Eastwood's performance. Unfortunately I found the supporting cast to be poor most of the time, sometimes the acting was downright terrible, which severely hampered the film. Also the narrative could have been presented with more subtlety. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Mikaboshi at 19:59, 02 April 2009 | Report This Post


Woeful acting

This film could've been a lot better if they had some half decent actors to support Eastwood. Even he wasn't at his best! I agree with another reviewer who was embarrassed at how bad some of the deliver was from the priest and the neighbour girl. Not even worthy of the 3 stars. 2 and a half at best... ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by brads23184 at 23:31, 25 March 2009 | Report This Post


RE: Very good film - with a few flaws

How this film was over looked so tragically at the Oscars is beyond me, I thought it was simply beautiful.   So well performed by Eastwood, he is fantastic, the story really pulled me in without any thumping soundtracks and sweeping close ups on people, or birdseye shots of vast wilderness or cities, it was like watching a play on screen, a great return to real acting.   Well done Clint for one of the best movies I have ever seen.  Moving, funny and real. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by EdiWan Kenobi at 10:49, 23 March 2009 | Report This Post


GET OFF MY LAWN!!

Fantastic film.Best film I've seen Clint in in years.Shares a lt in common with my other favourite film,SCENT OF A WOMAN an inaccesible ex-soldier struggling with their inner demons finding peace with the unlikeliest people. A film which can be as laugh-out loud,tense,and moving. And Clint's co-stars are great! How he meets his match with the teen girl next door,and how he teaches her brother to stand up for himself. Fantastic film.I will be buying it on DVD! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by monty2 at 02:14, 23 March 2009 | Report This Post


RE: PURE QUALITY

I really enjoyed this, two hours solid entertainment from one of the best there is. 4 Stars ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by skeletonjack at 08:47, 21 March 2009 | Report This Post


RE: PURE QUALITY

Was it intentional for alot of scenes to be out of focus or was it a shit cinema screen I saw it at? ... More

Posted by Samfran at 01:51, 21 March 2009 | Report This Post


PURE QUALITY

GREAT MOVIE. SAW THIS TODAY. CLINT'S AN ABSOLUTE LEGEND AND STILL AT THE PEAK OF HIS POWERS. GO SEE! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by chrisdagnall at 19:13, 19 March 2009 | Report This Post


I just don't understand ...

... the glowing praise this so-called "masterpiece" has received. The only positive for me was Clint, and even then his 2 dimensional racist - all the slopes, gooks and spooks stuff - was a real let down. But in terms of the rest of the film - 1) not one of the supporting cast was any good, Sue and Thao in particular were amazingly poor, especially after I'd seen so many comments praising Sue's performance - she looked like she was struggling to read off an autocue 2) Clint's fairly rapid ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by rjdjones at 11:02, 17 March 2009 | Report This Post


RE: Gran Torino

Loved it!! Clint was amazing and it genuinely moved me to tears - my film of the year so far! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by captain jack harknes at 22:44, 12 March 2009 | Report This Post


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