GRAN TORINO, a film about a grumpy old-timer who begrudgingly becomes the local neighbourhood hero, is surprisingly one of the best films I have seen all year. Clint Eastwood has struck gold again!
To say that the main character Walt Kowalski (Eastwood ) is a racist with a life-time of prejudices under his belt is the understatement of the century. This Korean War veteran, who stubbornly stays on in his Michigan neighbourhood, lashes out more words and insults at his Asian neighbours than most people have ever heard.
You would think that this element would put you off the film but it doesn’t due to great comic timing and acting. We realise that despite his gruff exterior Kowalski is not that bad really; well it might be difficult to have a cup of tea with him and you’ll definitely have to stay off his lawn but even his neighbours, who give as good as they get, learn to respect him even more than his own family.
The story begins with the funeral of Kowalski’s beloved wife. His two sons are trying to get what they think is their hard-ass father into a senior citizen’s home while his spoilt grandchildren, who have little or no respect, try to get their hands on whatever they can, namely his mint condition 1972 Gran Torino. However, they’re not the only ones who want this prize possession.
Kowalski’s neighbour Theo (Bee Vang ), a young Hmong teenager under pressure from his gang member cousin, tries to steal it as part of an initiation rite. After dishonouring his family Theo is forced to work for Kowalski who eventually takes Theo under his wing, tries to “man” him up a bit, and in doing so is reluctantly drawn into the life of his neighbours. He attempts to protect Theo and his sister Sue from the gang - what hurts them, hurts him.
Eastwood brings a Dirty Harry (37 years on ) attitude to this role - he might be 78 but don’t mess with him or his army rifle. Even pointing his finger in a gun-like way is unnerving. Only brilliant script writing and direction/acting by Eastwood can pull off such rudeness. It’s brilliant, a definite must-see.