Starring: Clint Eastwood, Christopher Carley, Bee Vang and Ahney Her
Run Time: 1 hr 56 mins
Plot Synopsis: A racist Korean War veteran living in a crime-ridden Detroit neighborhood is forced to confront his own lingering prejudice when a troubled Hmong teen from his neighborhood attempts to steal his prized Gran Torino.
Clint Eastwood. The name conjures images of one tough hombre and one great movie, Dirty Harry. And why not? Dirty Harry is arguably the movie Eastwood is most known for. For a while, Eastwood was seen by movie fans as a gritty, tough S.O.B that you did not want to mess with. But, as is the case with everyone, Clint Eastwood aged. He grew older and wiser. But that did not stop him from making great films, like Million Dollar Baby, Changeling, and Unforgiven. However, Eastwood gradually began to move away from roles like Inspector Harry Callahan and Rowdy Yates. But with Gran Tourino, the gritty, tough S.O.B character that Eastwood had become so long ago is back with a vengence. Eastwood plays a racist Korean War vet in the film. And it’s his performance, along with fantastic acting from supporting actors Christopher Carly and Bee Vang, that truly made Gran Tourino a special film. In fact, If I would have seen this film before I wrote my top ten films of 2008, it would have been placed in the top two. That’s right, it was that good.
It’s fantastic to see Eastwood playing the type of role that made him one of my all time favorite actors. The man is truly talented, no one can argue with that. And at the tender young age of 78, I will admit that Eastwood can still be an intimidating presence on the big screen. I’m not ashamed to admit that if I ever saw a man like Walt Kowalski (Eastwood’s character in the film) in a dark alley, I’d be pretty nervous. That is what is truly special about this film, the fine acting throughout. It would’ve been easy to assume that at Eastwood’s age, he could no longer strike fear in the hearts of moviegoers. No longer can he intimidate people, and make them feel like he is a man you don’t want to cross. But if you assume that, you are dead wrong.
Aside from Clint Eastwood’s fine performance, I felt that the film also featured strong supporting performances by the aforementioned actors. Christopher Carley played Father Janovich, the priest at Kowalski’s church, a man who commonly visits Kowalski and tries to talk with him about Walt’s issues. And Carley did a fine job, I felt like the character truly knew Walt. His presence did nothing to lessen the film in any way. To be honest, I was a bit worried about Carley. Up until this film, he had only played minor roles in film, television and on Broadway. How would he look next to an actor the caliber of Clint Eastwood? The simple answer is just fine. The supporting role that impressed me the most, however, was that of Bee Vang. Vang played Thao Van Lor, Walt’s teenage neighbor and the kid who tried to steal Walt’s prized Gran Tourino. Well, without spoiling the movie, I will say that Thao came to be quite close to Walt. Their dynamic was amazing. Their scenes were some of the best in the film. It was a character that you felt for. Thao was someone that you wanted to see succeed. And all of that is possible because of the strong performance from Vang. I hope to see this kid again sometime. This film should open doors for him.
In case you haven’t guessed it yet, I definitely recommend this movie to anyone and everyone. It is a fine piece of cinema that should go down as one of Eastwood’s better films. The movie had something for everyone: Excitement, danger, drama. There was plenty of emotion. Watching Walt’s “transformation” was moving. The end of the film was powerful. You feel it, I was on the edge of my seat, pleading with the screen, hoping to find that the film comes to a different conclusion than the one that was clearly developing. Watch the film to find out what I was talking about. It was one of those moments that really tugs at the heart strings. There is no reason for you to not see this film. It’s a movie that I will be purchasing the day it is released, because I feel like it is a must for my DVD collection. If you are a fan of quality films or vintage Eastwood, you will love it. If not, you will still enjoy it. Watch it.