Gran Torino

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Gran Torino

Review (7.5/10)
(By Brendan Cullin)

In "Gran Torino", Clint Eastwood stars as Walt Kowalski, a crusty old Korean War veteran whose neighbourhood has been overtaken by, what he so affectionately calls, zipperheads and gooks. I must confess, I have never heard the term zipperhead until I saw "Gran Torino". For those out there who, like me, have not been subject to such blatant racism, a zipperhead is a person of Chinese or Asian decent – at least that's what I understand from the movie. Kowalski's anger does not begin and end with the Chinese people in his neighbourhood. He hates his two sons. He doesn't seem to like his priest. He certainly doesn't like his grandchildren. And I'm pretty convinced he wasn't too fond of Walt Kowalski either.

But with all that being said, good ol' Walt did have an affinity for beer, guns, his barber, his dog and of course his 1972 Gran Torino. When one of the neighbours kids tries to steal his car, Walt comes very close to killing him but in the end, he befriends both Thao and his sister Sue. It's an odd relationship where Thao and Sue teach Walt the importance of tolerance and culturalism and Walt teaches Thao how to be a man, at least in Walt's eyes. In the meantime, the neighbourhood is being terrorized by a Chinese gang that is hellbent on having Thao join them. When Thao resists, violence erupts and Walt realizes he must step in to put an end to the gang's reign of terror.

My first thought after seeing "Gran Torino" is that a better title could have possibly been "Dirty Harry: The Retirement Years". His character wasn't that much different. I mean, what a miserable, cranky old man. Walt Kowalski makes the Grumpy Old Men look like Santa Claus and Mister Rogers. I can't remember the last time I saw such a cantankerous old fart in a movie. Of course, by the end of the movie you do become quite fond of the son-of-a-gun but I'm not sure he can be completely forgiven for what he did in the preceding 1 hour and 45 minutes of the movie.

With that being said, did I like "Gran Torino"? Yeah, it was pretty entertaining. Funny at times. Heartbreaking too I suppose. There were moments that I felt all the screeplay contained was racist names for every ethnicity and culture in the world. It seemed like the script was written by a combination of Kevin Smith, Andrew Dice Clay and Howard Stern.

Is "Gran Torino" one of the best movies of the year? I think not. You'd think from some of the buzz surrounding the movie that we were going to get the next "Unforgiven" or "Million Dollar Baby". It's neither of those. But I guess Eastwood is in a place in his career where it seems he can do no wrong. Not that "Gran Torino" is a bad movie, because it's not. But really, it's a movie about a cranky old bigot who's on last leg and gets himself involved in a dispute between a couple of teenagers and a gang. Do you not think that somewhere in his retirement Dirty Harry might be up to the same thing? If old Walt Kowalski would have spit out the line "Go ahead, make my day", I think I would have gave "Gran Torino" a standing ovation.


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