Review: Gran Torino
March 10, 2009 by admin
Clint Eastwood is compelling as the lead in the American drama Gran Torino, set in Detroit. Eastwood plays a no frills Korean war veteran, Walt Kowlaski, who takes an intense dislike to everyone and feels disconnected from his sons and their own families. He grumbles at the sight of faces of other races.
A grunting, growling old widower, who sits and spits on his porch all day drinking can after can of beer, Kowlaski is an unlikely hero. And yet it is naturally felt Kowalski deserves to be one.
He even tells the ginger chubby cheeked priest that he thinks he is, “An overeducated, 27-year-old virgin, who likes to hold the hands of superstitious old ladies and promise them eternity.”
In fact the only real respect Kowalski seems to carry is for his dog and his 1972 Gran Torino.
The story takes a dramatic twist when a local gang tries to kidnap Kowalski’s 15-year-old next door neighbour, Thao, and a fight breaks out on Kowalski’s lawn. It is unclear what angers him more, the fact that they’re fighting on his lawn, or that they’re all of the Hmong race.
When Kowalski strides outside holding a rifle and threatens the gang off his lawn, the neighbourhood ironically hails him a hero.
Kowalski gradually befriends his neighbours, slowly realising he can relate more easily to the two Hmong teenagers that live next door, than his own family.
This is a touching story and keeps the audience on their toes using the theme of life and death; the film starts with a funeral and Kowalski’s weaponry makes a frequent appearance. There are also references to Kowalski’s time during the war in Korea. Kowalski is plagued by a serious illness throughout the film, leading to a foreboding presence of possible death and shadowing the plot.
Although the interesting variety of characters made this film a definite worthwhile watch for me, I found Gran Torino slightly unsatisfying. Perhaps I was waiting for that extra scene to add meaning and emphasis but instead found myself watching the film credits roll by.
By Laura James