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Overall Rating

Awesome: 17.5%
Worth A Look: 27.5%
Average: 15%
Pretty Bad: 11.25%
Total Crap28.75%

4 reviews, 56 user ratings

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Gran Torino
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Erik Childress

"Never Trust Eastwood With A Car Title"
2 stars

History will have few bad words to say about Clint Eastwood. The iconic actor responsible for some of the most memorable screen characters by name or no name turned into one of the most respected and honored directors of our time. When it was announced he would (again) be getting a second project off the ground for the calendar year, the early assumption based on what little was known about it was that Gran Torino would be the sixth and final installment in the Dirty Harry series. Also, that it would be Clint’s swan song from acting. What a way to go out, huh? At the time Harry Callahan was cleaning up the remains of The Dead Pool, Clint was also embarking on his most ambitious work to date with Bird, the biopic of Charlie Parker. 20 years later with Unforgiven, A Perfect World, Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby and Letters from Iwo Jima under his belt (amongst others), how interesting would it be to see THAT Clint take on an older, retired and possibly even more grizzled punk shooter? Unfortunately it looks like we’ll never know because Gran Torino turned out not to be a Dirty Harry film, although perhaps it should have been. That way we could have written it off as just goofy nonsense rather than a downright laughable attempt at avenging race relations.

When we first meet “Don’t call me Walt” Kowalski (Eastwood) he is observing the habits of his family attending the funeral of his wife. The inappropriate talk and dress of his grandchildren is enough to make any mourner wince, but Walt is a grunter. Walt grunts the way most of us sigh or roll our eyes, making him sound like mute henchman. He’s also an incredible racist and is not shy about it. His time killing “gooks” and “zipperheads” in the Korean War haven’t left him with much appreciation for the heavily-populated Asian-American neighborhood. He hates his family. He hates the church. The only things he appears to love are his golden retriever, his pristine lawn and the vintage Gran Torino in his garage built in the factory he used to work in.

Thao (Bee Vang) is the teenage boy who lives next door. Overhearing how he’ll never be the man of the house, he considers an offer by his gangbangin’ cousin, Spider (Doua Moua) and his crew for initiation into their gang. The target: Walt’s Gran Torino. Not-so-lucky for Thao, Walt is a light sleeper and is caught redhanded at gunpoint. After escaping and regretting his decision, Thao is harassed again by his cousin’s bros, leading to a skirmish that spills over onto Walt’s property leading to the priceless grumpy old man warning (again at gunpoint), “GET OFF MY LAWN.” As thanks for coming to Thao’s rescue, Walt’s Asian neighbors deliver him food on his doorstep and offer the boy’s services to him as repayment for his indiscretion. Walt initially wants no part of this hospitality but sees an opportunity to help clean up the neighborhood and maybe teach Thao about what it is to be a man while the gang continues to goad the boy into membership.

Because Eastwood plays Kowalski as such an unapologetic racist, but with that traditional tough guy glint in his eye, it’s very easy to mistake Gran Torino as some kind of dark comedy at first. As in the more you hear it, the more desensitized you are to it. Whether as a defense mechanism or simply because you find any insults hilarious, it’s impossible not to laugh through the first hour; sometimes by the film’s intention and most of the time not so much. While some of us went long on the over/under of the word “gook” being used, it’s more than made up for with the likes of “rice eaters”, “fish heads”, “ding dong” and “Charlie Chan” amongst others. Far from being insulted by the language, especially since it fits Walt’s character, but the longer it goes, the less funny it feels and the glaring flaws in trying to tell this story become readily more up front.

As the film shifts into a “gettin’ to know ya” type piece about race relations, Nick Schenk’s screenplay never quite grasps how to get beyond the standard clichés. What slowly develops into a Miyagi/Daniel-san relationship with the racial roles reversed, one of the many embarrassing scenes and easily the point from which there is no return, Walt takes Thao to his local barber to which he shares a manly camaraderie with. It consists not of talk about broads or the local sports team, but trading insults – apparently the core lesson that will get the boy into becoming a man. The scene makes sense early on as its two friends alone, bantering racial insults at one another. But when Thao is added into the equation, you have the barber hauling taunts at a stranger and even goes so far to pull a shotgun on him. Again, this is meant as humor.

The most obtrusive factor of this portion of the film though is that it contains what are, by 20,000 leagues, two of the worst performances I have bared witness to in some time. Bee Vang is supposed to be playing a somewhat socially awkward teen, but Eastwood forgot to tell him not to carry that over into his acting. Any time he is forced to speak out or to portray anything resembling a mute, the entire audience is turned into a stage parent watching their kid stumble through their first audition. And yet Vang’s work is not nearly as embarrassing as Ahney Her who plays Thao’s big sister. As her role grows bigger in the film, she is forced to try and act tough and sarcastic towards Walt and the various thugs populating the neighborhood. When she’s harassed by some black youths, she stands up to them so unconvincingly by repeating such obviously written lines that we can’t believe for a second that her brain is actually generating enough power to get them out. Ahney Her is so bad in this scene, which when combined with the white homeboy wannabe she’s walking with, that part of us actually wants to see the punks give them both a fresh one right across the lips. Instead, Walt steps in to save the day with a forecast of things to come and another reminder that we wish this was Dirty Harry pulling the cocked finger out of his jacket.

Getting back to the punks for a second, Spider and his peeps may be the least credible and most inept gang to terrorize the streets since the Little Rascals smallpox misunderstanding of 1944. Coaxing Thao to join them so they can look out for his well being is atypical gang behavior in recruiting the weak? But once he ignores their request, they come back again. Once he fails at his initiation they keep trying to bully him into their ranks. Why do they even want this shy, pussy-ish, clearly unreliable dweeb who would rather work in the garden at this point? Maybe they need a brain to their operation because when it comes to retaliation we’re unsure if they really meant to strafe their own relative’s place with bullets or if they just got the wrong house. They don’t even take notice of the priest standing on their front lawn in broad daylight with a pair of cops and wonder that something might be happening. Or at least leading to a final solution not just feverishly telegraphed, but ultimately insulting in the kind of Nancy Grace-ish “we care when a pretty young white girl is kidnapped” kinda way that somehow upstages Kevin Costner’s final shot in The Postman with the most callously self-indulgent tribute shot that a director could give to himself as the star of his own misguided project.

Of course, Flags of Our Fathers wasn’t much of a success either so maybe Clint is preparing a film from the gang’s point of view called Letters from a Gran Torino. Honestly, how can you take seriously a film that peppers its confrontation scenes with an military drum march? Joe Dante employed more subtlety during Bruce Dern’s scenes in The ‘Burbs, for God’s sake. Walt’s family is a beyond cartoonish display of jerkery who are just waiting for him to die so they can ransack his place. The priest played by Christopher Carley makes one long for Philip Seymour Hoffman in Doubt (indiscretions or not) and presumably keeps coming around to bother Walt not at his wife’s request but out of boredom since the rest of the neighborhood presumably goes to their own Church. Finally, once all the irritating clichés and desperate yearning for character arcs in Schenk’s screenplay and all the horrible performances and ridiculous ending are laid to rest, we have Clint himself to sing us out to pasture with a closing song. (“Engine on and better dreams grow…heart locked in a Gran Torino. It beats a lonely rhythm…all night long.”) And you thought Walt was kidding when he told his son early on that people would show up after the funeral because he “suppose they heard there’s gonna be a lot of ham.”

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originally posted: 12/19/08 16:00:00
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User Comments

9/22/17 morris campbell good eastwood vehicle 4 stars
7/05/17 Lisa What a load of melodramatic crap. Overrated garbage. 1 stars
6/25/17 Danny Awful acting, and Eastwood's as usual about as subtle as a sledgehammer. 1 stars
3/01/15 stanley welles clumsy and crude, yet preposterously entertaining throughout 3 stars
6/10/14 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
10/15/11 Dave Agreed with Peter's review. Spot on. 2 stars
11/14/10 sam bonner people love this movie, that is all that matters 5 stars
7/04/10 puddleduck Excellent story, unfortunate some don't get what this movie is explores. 5 stars
4/19/10 MattyC. Holy cow. How did anyone like this trash? HORRIBLE acting!! Painfully pretentious. 1 stars
3/28/10 BigGuy If he was a Korean war vet, his first car would have been a 55 Chevy--get your dates right! 1 stars
1/10/10 pinter terrible cliched film 1 stars
11/29/09 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
9/01/09 MP Bartley Not exactly subtle, but Eastwood pulls you into it regardless. 4 stars
8/05/09 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
7/16/09 Brett P. An AWESOME movie,and the music by Clint is BRILLIANT. 5 stars
7/09/09 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
7/02/09 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
6/18/09 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
6/13/09 action movie fan some scenes were good but mainly too talky and dull 2 stars
5/04/09 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
4/07/09 Michael You're spot on. This film is so camp !! dreadful clichés.Thoroughly soporific. No subtlety. 1 stars
4/05/09 Jacqueline It was bad. It was ugly. The only good thing is that it ended. 1 stars
4/05/09 K. Sear One of the most poorly assembled films I have ever seen. 1 stars
3/02/09 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
2/01/09 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
1/22/09 Jackie Finally someone tells it like it us. What an awful, awkward, disjointed film. Hilarious! 1 stars
1/21/09 don eremin people do change..wonderful 5 stars
1/20/09 Ginny Monroe Perfect movie, I loved it! 5 stars
1/18/09 Mike Eastwood was great. Couldn't get over the terrible cast. 2 stars
1/17/09 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
1/16/09 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
1/11/09 George (DUKE) Eastwood perfect...stereotypes RIGHT ON THE MONEY...true...funny 4 stars
1/11/09 Luisa Terrible asian actors, but Clint was great, funny!! 4 stars
1/10/09 Jess The cast seemed amateur because they ARE amateurs! Non-actors! 5 stars
1/04/09 John Seems your cosy middle-class education precluded working-class culture and social mores. 4 stars
12/29/08 Drew It was a great movie 5 stars
12/29/08 mr.mike Unfortunately the character is more Archie Bunker than Paul Kersey. 4 stars
12/28/08 caiphn Loved it. 4 stars
12/25/08 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
12/15/08 Man Out 6 Bucks Clint puts multicultural mythology on high contrast. Freeze frame from a day in south LA 5 stars
12/13/08 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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