I have always been a fan of Clint Eastwood. Though he is more than just an actor, one should not label him solely as such, nor try to peg him as that is what he does best.
He has been a producer, actor, composer and director over the past number of years and seems to excel at every role. A very talented man. But I have learned that many actors in Hollywood are far from being one dimensional talents. Just when you think they are great actors, watch enough TV talk shows, and you will soon discover these are multi-talented people. They write, they act, they compose and often, they can sing and dance too. Eastwood may not be able to sing and dance but he excels in every other creative area, and amazingly well at that.
In Gran Torino, he plays the role of Walt Kowalski, a recently widowed retired auto worker and troubled veteran of the Korean veteran. He is a grumpy old man, a racist, a bigot and extremely biased in thinking his is the only correct way of thinking in the world. The story begins with two things happening simultaneously: his wife of many decades dies and Hmong (Thai) immigrants move into the house next door.
The story develops along line connected to both events. As a recent widower with an adult son and grandchildren, one story line reveals that his relationship with the new neighbours impacts on his own polarized and aloof relationship with his own family. He has little use for his own son who he sees as a ‘deserter’ to the good American system when he becomes a foreign car salesman while Kowalski has been a Ford auto worker his whole working life. In fact, he helped assemble his pride and joy, sheltered and treasured in his garage behind his house, a mint condition, 1972 Ford Gran Torino.
The young Hmong boy next door tries to steal the car. Gang members try to abuse the young boys sister. Kowalski interacts more and more with the entire multitudinous Hmong family and as he does his own values and views about the world around him begin to evolve.
The climax of the movie depicts Kowalski as a much more caring, intelligent and principled man than we first are led to believe. The sacrifice he makes to end the movie is horrendous and redeeming for the many prejudiced and angry things he did in his life. His wife would have been proud had she seen it; his son and family did see it and are justifiably proud of him.
Eastwood’s movies often end sadly. This one is no different.
At times, some of the scenes of the movie last longer than they should and occasionally the acting is stilted and jagged. However, the story is based on a universal theme, on values and principles which also are universal and enduring. You cannot help but cheer for Kowalski and admire Eastwood’s portrayal of the character.
A good movie in every sense, plot, theme, story development and even the outcome. Any caring and sensitive person cannot help but find this movie to be entertaining and endearing.
A very watchable movie for the whole family! (Some scenes of violence.)
Watch for my upcoming reviews: REDS 2, American Hustle, and Due Date