Posted by: cosborn | January 20, 2009

Gran Torino – Eastwood at His Best

Clint Eastwood directed and stars in Gran Torino, and he absolutely nails this movie. This is what I wish I could see every time I go to a movie in terms of character development, story telling, acting, etc. It’s terrific. The nmovies web site is likewise, well done.

Eastwood plays a retired autoworker and Korean War veteran – Walt Kowalski – whose wife just died. His neighborhood is changing as immigrants are moving and and changing the look and feel of the street in ways Walt just can’t seem to grasp comfortably.

But as this story unfolds, Walt’s strength of character and spirit lead him on a path he never expected, and for a movie goer, it’s a path that makes this a really exceptional movie experience. I don’t want to spoil the movie for you, so I won’t go into plot elements. But it is worth mentioning three really great supporting performances.

Abney Her is really touching as Walt’s neighbor, Sue.  She is simply outstanding, and her character provides an great emotional anchor for Walt’s journey.  Bee Vang plays Sue’s younger brother, and his performance is great. This character really transforms right in front of us as Walt takes a deep – and surprising – interest in the boy. And Christopher Carley was really good in the role of a young priest whose patience is really tested by Walt.

One fascinating element to the movie is the difficulty assimilating into American Hmong immigrants face. Sue offers a great line about the problems saying, “Hmong girls do well, but Hmong boys go to jail.” The prevelance of gangs and violence in poor neighborhoods in transisiton – like Walt’s – threaten every resident and strain every relationship.

There are some really funny moments in the movie as Walt’s crude and rough around the edges character collides with the unfamiliar Hmong culture now occupying the house next door. I know it wasn’t PC, but I could not help but laugh at several points in the movie when Walt’s unabashed, out-of-touch attitudes showed up in his comments and snide remarks to and about everybody he met.

Gran Torino is a worthwhile movie experience, but it’s not an easy story. But – trust me – it’s more than worth it!


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