Disgruntled Korean War vet, Walt Kowalski, sets out to reform his neighbor, a young Hmong teenager, who has tried to steal Kowalski’s prized possession: his 1972 Gran Torino. Along the way he becomes friends with his immigrant neighbors and finds a place in their family instead of his own and helps them with a neighborhood gang issue that is threatening to tear their family apart.
Clint Eastwood is a great director. There is no need to cite examples, this is just a given. However, his acting has never really impressed me; I liked him in UNFORGIVEN but not really anything else. His performance in GRAN TORINO shocked me and made me love him a little bit. His character is extremely rough around the edges and very vocal to the point of making the audience uncomfortable but at the same time he is likeable and vulnerable. I found myself feeling sympathetic towards Walt, which made him so endearing to me that I didn’t care what he said or did. I think it’s because I have met people like him and when you hear their back story and understand where they are coming from it’s hard not to be receptive to their point of view.
Another enjoyable aspect of the film is the interaction of Eastwood’s character with his family. Without giving anything away, let’s just say that old adage of “you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family” is very well illustrated in this film. It’s shown so well that even though the main character is sometimes a dislikable jerk, you almost feel sorry for him because of his family.
Overall I found this movie to be very enjoyable although it’s hard to put my finger on which aspects I liked. There is no specific scene or situation that comes to mind when I think of this film, I only see it as a whole. Of course I enjoyed the main character of Walt but that’s not the only reason to like this film. The story was really mesmerizing and well told and I found that each moment kept my attention. The characters were all so interesting that I found myself wondering what happened to them after the film was over. This is one of those films where I have found myself pondering weeks after I had seen it and that is tough to find in Hollywood these days.
I would highly recommend this film to anyone. Clint Eastwood has grown so much as a director it’s hard to not respect his films. He has an amazing gift at telling stories of any kind and this story is no exception. In my opinion, this is by far and away one of the best movies of 2008 and a must see for movie fans.