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Starring: Clint Eastwood, Christopher Carley, Bee Vang, Sue Lor

Director: Clint Eastwood

Screenplay: Nick Schenk, Dave Johannsen

Cinematography: Tom Stern

Original Score: Kyle Eastwood, Maichael Stevens

Running Time: 116 Mins.

Every so often a film comes along that knocks you for six. Not because it’s a major feat in film-making, not because it’s especially original and not because it’s a masterpiece but simply because it holds a certain poignancy and emotes to you in ways that few other things can. Gran Torino is one of those films for one simple reason, Clint Eastwood.

This is Eastwood’s second directorial effort in the last 6 months and on many levels is far inferior, technically, structurally and in a cinematical sense but it beats with one thing Changeling lacked…real emotional heft. Walt Kawalski could have quite easily turned into a walking cliche, a bitter old war vet befriended by an outsider and learning to ‘love life’ again and it’s hard to see anyone other than Eastwood in the role. For if it’s a Dirty Harry revisited in his retirement years you want, look no further.

However, to simply dismiss Gran Torino as an amaganation of past glories is to do the film a disservice, certainly elements of many, if not all, of Eastwood’s iconic guises from’ The Man With No Name’ to William Munny can be spotted in Walt, but there is a freshness to the man that comes from more than mere nostalgia.

Oddly humour is a major player here, to the point where one could almost call it a black comedy/drama, and these aren’t just raise a smile laughs, they are the whole hearted belly laughs usually reserved only for the likes of Will Ferrell or Adam Sandler! True, the comedic elements are largely observational from Walt’s world weary, and it must be said overtly racist, observations with terms such as spook, gook and fishhead thrown around, no minority is safe, but somehow from Walt’s mouth we can see beyond mere hatred and believe in his journey in bonding with next door neighbour Tao, whilst never fully losing his cynical side.

It is fair to say that through the course of Gran Torino’s running time you never really feel the plot is heading anywhere in particular, instead you will revel in the time spent with Eastwood, clinging to every word he growls as he becomes close first to Sue then Tao. The plodding narrative is punctuated by some truly shocking acts of violence which come as both unexpected and incur even more unexpected outcomes, who thought someone pointing a finger at you could be so scary!

If there is any criticism to be made it’s that the support cast are either a.)given poor material, Walt’s sons in particular are a waste of time, or b.) struggle with what they have, with the Hmong family varying from good to poor. Not a majot issue as Tao is excellent in his scenes as Walt’s foil, it’s just that when he is required to get TOO emotional he has a tendency to overact, not helped by Walt’s understated reactions. These though are minor gripes and as the film comes to its denouement you are led to expect something explosive, almost Death Wish like in it’s demeanour, instead you get a finale that cements all that has come before leaving you with a film as touching as you might hope.

VERDICT

At once touching and unexpectedly funny, Gran Torino is as moving a film experience as your likely to have all year. Let us pray this isn’t Eastwood’s acting swansong, but if it is it’s one hell of a way to go!  

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