Friday, September 4, 2009

Gran Torino

Clint Eastwood, 2008 (8.7*)
This is just another gripping and hard-hitting modern drama from actor-director Clint Eastwood, who seems to improve with age like a fine Carmel area wine. Here he appropriately plays a hardened, grizzled Korean war veteran whose wife has just died. His neighborhood is now mostly southeast Asian immigrants from the Hmong culture, a mountain tribe there. He avoids them, they mouth off about him under their breaths. Things change when a local Hmong street gang starts putting pressure on his neighbor's son Thao, played by Bee Vang, and Eastwood helps keep the gang from kidnapping him by showing up in the yard with his loaded rifle from the war.

From then on, he's broken through the cultural barriers and the Hmongs all now respect him, a stranger who came to their aid. His gruff facade is gradually broken down by Thao's sister Sue, an intelligent and straightforward teenage girl, superbly played by Ahney Her; she simply doesn't accept his rejections, and is persistant in an unassuming way. She quickly becomes a closer friend to him than his own relations, who seem to consider him an aging inconvenience.

The Gran Torino of the title sits in Clint's garage, and is something he once worked on at the nearby auto plant; it's also something the gang, his granddaughter, and Thao all admire. Here, it become's a metaphor of an idealistic America of the past, when things were well made and people took pride in making them - much happier and more secure times, with ideals worth holding onto; for Clint, he can at least hold onto the car, keeping it in mint condition as life deteriorates all around. This is a very gripping, believable drama, one that should have been up for the best picture Oscar, as Clint was for directing; he even wrote the title song, played over the closing credits.

2 comments:

Kogi Kaishakunin September 8, 2009 at 12:38 PM  

If Dirty Harry retired and moved to the suburbs he would be Walter :-)

Zach November 6, 2009 at 5:48 AM  

I absolutely loved this film, one of the best of 2008. And I agree that it should have been nominated for best picture. It was compelling to watch the character development, and I'll admit it - one of the few films I've cried during.

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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.



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