Throwback To Eastwood’s Own Iconography In “Gran Torino”

Rated R / 116 Minutes / Warner Bros. Pictures

If ever there was a role that signified a send-off to a legendary career, then that of Walt Kowalski in Clint Eastwood’s latest film, Gran Torino, is certainly it for him.  Walt has been endlessly labeled as Dirty Harry Callahan after retirement, and there are definite similarities; but I think this character is drawn from much more than just that classic figure. It’s like Eastwood hand-picked this screenplay by Nick Schenk, saw it as a perfect way to close the curtain on his career in front of the screen, and is saying farewell by creating a culmination of nearly every single character he has played over the last 50+ years. The film definitely centers itself around the performance by Eastwood, and it’s fascinating and terrific enough to garner an Oscar nomination for the legend, but there’s a lot of other aspects about the project that deserve much recognition. The film almost feels like it could have been adapted from a play as it sticks to a very simple environment, relying on genuine human emotion and a lifetime of regrets brought to the dissection table in the most unexpected of places.

As the film opens we are witnessing the funeral service of Kowalski’s wife, who we quickly come to find was the only person who could possibly have had a chance to get through to him on the inside, to understand him as his true self. Even to his immediate family members he is seen as a distant, cold, and insensitive person; which is just what Walt would prefer. We see the modern world through the discretional eye of this intriguing character, a war veteran who has seen the grittiest circumstances of life and death, now living in a world where morals seem to have been sucked from nearly every human being. Eastwood and Schenk waste no time letting us get to know Walt, as his grandchildren disrespect the church and the recently deceased at the funeral service, all while  flaunting various electronic gadgets and exposing ridiculous and oddly placed body piercings, which to all Walt gives a snarl. He is left in a large home with no one but his faithful dog Daisy to accompany him, as he chooses to live the remainder of his days landscaping on a regular basis and drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon after Pabst Blue Ribbon on his porch, observing the run-down Detroit population and, most importantly, marking his territory.

With the loss of the only person close to him he both locks himself up inside even more, and becomes twice as bitter on the outside to anyone that dares come in contact with him. The calculated, material interactions that his in-law’s frequently have with him do not stand a chance at cracking his judgment, and even the visits by a young priest (because it was promised to his late wife that he would check up on Walt) will be shot down unless he alters the normal outline by which these individuals of the church go about helping people. Walt’s world is not one to easily shake and even suggest a change, but when he becomes involved with an Asian family that lives next door after a quiet boy that resides there is forced by a gang into attempting to steal Walt’s 1972 Gran Torino, he will soon be opened up to an understanding he never thought was possible. That is all the detail I will go into about the story, because to give any more away would feel like an analyzation of plot, when really all that should be done in a review for a film like this is to state an opinion one way or the other. This is a film that is certainly the most straight-forward he’s made this decade in terms of construction,  but the power of the characters and situations is as deeply layered as anything he has ever done. There are mostly positive remarks about Gran Torino, with the only real complaint being that the supporting acting seems bland and off-putting. I never thought that for a second, and not even when the Asian gangs were repeatedly blabbing on and on with their incessant demands of the young boy, because who is to say that this is not a realistic depiction of what goes on in these downtrodden parts of the world? Eastwood’s film is nearly another masterpiece, but it is certainly another fantastic piece of work in a long career filled with dozens of praise-worthy projects. If this is indeed a send-off to his presence in front of the camera, I can be okay with that.

3 1/2 STARS

Clint Eastwood
Bee Vang
Ahney Her
Christopher Carley
John Carroll Lynch

Screenplay by
Nick Schenk

Produced & Directed by
Clint Eastwood


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4 Responses to “Throwback To Eastwood’s Own Iconography In “Gran Torino””

  1. Corey Says:

    The kid that the Sue girl walks with and encounters the three black people is actually his younger son Scott. Funny, he calls his son a pussy in the movie.

  2. coffee Says:

    Clint Eastwood did a great job of using his outward crankiness to come across as mean as well as somehow heroic this newest film of his

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