Synopsis: A Korean War Vet in Gran Torino, who is extremely negative about life and appears to dislike everyone, ends up taking his new neighbor, a young Hmong teenager under his wing. In order to protect the teen from the neighborhood gang and the lifestyle common among the Hmong children in the area, he will risk everything and fight.
Release Date: December 12, 2008 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Action, Drama
The storyline is interesting and engaging in Gran Torino but it falls short due to the poor acting ability of many of the cast. It is also full of a variety of racist comments and stereotypes that may be offensive to the viewer.
The writing in Gran Torino is rich with dark humor and sarcasm. The best lines seem to be reserved for Walt and the others left behind to simply respond with simple phrases. It does keep you entertained and you are continually wondering what Walt will say next in his blunt sarcastic tone of voice. The racist comments and stereotypes are overly abundant; you understand early on that Walt has deep-rooted bigotry towards Asians and by the middle of Gran Torino it is tiring to hear him continually repeat or state a new prejudice remark. If only it was more focused on showing the actual man through his words and actions then simply his outer shell.
The major issue with Gran Torino is the acting. Clint Eastwood is entertaining as Walt Kowalski, with his heavy breath and scowls when dealing with those who irritate or annoy him; combined with a growl that expresses his feelings more than words ever could. He portrays Walt as a man whom you really should not like but at the same time are strangely drawn to him as a tortured soul. He is arrogant, racist, ripe with sarcasm and full of anger towards everything in his life but underneath the hard exterior is a man who is capable of great heroism and kind deeds. Eastwood is able to play both sides of the character idly as if he is not really acting at all but simply portraying a part of himself.
The problem lies with the two younger actors whom Eastwood shares the film with, Bee Vang as Thao and Ahney Her as Sue. Neither of these actors give a performance that is anything greater than flat and they lack any type of emotion throughout. They deliver their lines without a sense of timing or any sort of comfortableness with the material or themselves. It is a great disappointment for the material they are given has tremendous possibilities but the delivery is severely flawed by their lack of experience and skill.
There is a shining light in the performances, and it comes from a woman who never speaks a single word of English the entire film, Grandma played by Chee Thao. She is absolutely hilarious to watch as she spars with Walt. Her scenes are short and sparse but they are remembered for her great performance.
Score and Soundtrack
The score of Gran Torino is beautiful in its simplicity. Comprised mostly of piano music it carries a soft and melodramatic tone that works well in contrast to the subject matter. The only moment where it clearly feels out of place and overdone is during the end credits when Clint Eastwood sings an original song about the Gran Torino. It is only best described with slang vocabulary: cheesy.
Although Gran Torino moves at an agreeable pace and feels complete in all aspects as it unfolds the directing is not up to par due to the neglect over the performances. Having two of the main characters give such poor performances has to be reconciled with the directing. More time and energy spent on coaching them would have helped to improve the entire film but unfortunately, it was clearly ignored.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Clint Eastwood
- Producer(s): Nick Schenk, Dave Johannson
- Screenwriter: Nick Schenk
- Cast: Clint Eastwood (Walt Kowalski), Christopher Carley (Father Janovich), Bee Vang (Thao Vang Lor), Ahney Her (Sue Lor), Brian Haley (Mitch Kowalski), John Carroll Lynch (Barber Martin), Chee Thao (Grandma)
- Joel Cox, Gary D. Roach, Tom Stern, Kyle Eastwood, Michael Stevens
- Country Of Origin: USA