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Movie Review - Gran Torino

Like Mike
Like Mike
Gran Torino

3rd March 2009 - ‘Gran Torino’, directed by Clint Eastwood, is my film of choice this week and I must say it was a great film with one stand out performance ... that being from Eastwood himself.  I’m more than happy to admit that I haven’t seen many films starring Eastwood, as I’m not much of a western film fan, and I just haven’t got around to seeing his Dirty Harry movies. The films that he directs are also sometimes hit and miss for me, examples being ‘Million Dollar Baby’ which I really didn’t like, and ‘Letters From Iwo Jima’ which I thought was very cool. But I heard great things about ‘Gran Torino’ so it was on my list of films to watch and I finally got to see it on Sunday night.

The film tells the story of Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood), a Korean war veteran living a lonely life with his equally aging dog.  He lives in his old neighbourhood, which over the years has turned into a predominantly asian community much to his dislike. Having recently lost his wife, who was clearly the love of his life, and having alienated the rest of his family, he goes about isolating himself even more to the community around him. Inadvertently, however, he ends up becoming the local neighbourhood hero when he scares off a local gang that is terrorising his neighbours. This sets off a chain of events that ends up with him befriending the boy next door, Thao, played by the newcomer Bee Vang.  Whilst teaching the boy how to become a man, Walt becomes aware of what he missed out on in alienating his own two sons earlier in their lives. But, like any drama, there’s always going to be something that will go wrong!  His earlier interference with the gang comes back to haunt both him and the next door neighbours who he’s become close to. Without giving too much away, the ending is pretty heart wrenching, leaving my flatmate’s girlfriend in a flood of tears! Great seeing a film being able to affect people like that.

There were some things that I thought weren’t so great about the film, one being the acting which I felt in parts was a bit forced. Having said that, I can possibly see why that was. In the film, the neighbourhood has become a Hmong community, Hmong being a race of people that live in Laos, Thailand, and China and all the Asian actors were Hmong.  However, in casting only Hmong actors and not using other Asian actors, who may have been better, at least Eastwood stuck with a sense of reality. Although, to me, some of the acting felt a little forced, all of that is forgotten when looking at Clint’s performance. As I said earlier, I haven’t seen many of his films but surely this is a stand out performance. He plays the perfect ‘grumpy old man’ and his every grunt, groan and frown brings laughter and when he ‘kicks butt’ you can’t help but cheer out loud, though deep down you know it’s all going to come back to get him in the end.

So a very strong film and very enjoyable but you are warned it is a tear jerker. 8 out of 10 from me.

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