Gran Torino (15)



Drama (2008)
116mins US/Australia

Starring: Clint Eastwood, Christopher Carley, Bee Vang, Ahney Her, John Carroll Lynch
Director: Clint Eastwood
Writer(s): Nick Schenk
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

Haunted by his experiences in the Korean War and consumed by grief over the death of his beloved wife, Walt Kowalski has become bitter and jaded towards everyone around him, including his two uncaring sons, Mitch and Steve. The old coot has no time for his Asian next-door neighbours, whom he labels "swamp rats". When Hmong gangbanger Spider and his four-strong posse scrap with neighbour's son Thao on his front lawn, Walt intervenes with a threat to use his M-1 rifle. Spider and co flee vowing revenge to the delight of Thao's older sister, Sue, who goes out of her way to strengthen ties between the two households.

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Interview With Clint Eastwood

LondonNet Film Review
Gran Torino

In what reportedly will be his final appearance in front of a camera, Clint Eastwood delivers a tour-de-force performance as a xenophobic war veteran in this timely, Humanist drama...

(L-r) Walt Kowalski (CLINT EASTWOOD), Thao (BEE VANG), Vu (BROOKE CHIA THAO), Grandma (CHEE THAO) and Sue (AHNEY HER) in Warner Bros. Pictures' and Village Roadshow Pictures' drama Gran Torino, distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. Photo by Anthony Michael RivettiWhile the rest of America looks to conflicts raging overseas, the veteran actor and director picks his thematic battles much closer to home. In particular, he examines the clashes of ideals in predominantly white, blue-collar neighbourhoods, where the ethnic and cultural make-up has been irrevocably altered by the influx of immigrants. This volatile mix of old and new, east and west, explodes with devastating consequences in Gran Torino, a powerful tale of modern day vigilantism based on a script by Nick Schenk.

At the emotional heart of the story is Walt Kowalski (Eastwood), a man haunted by his experiences in the Korean War and consumed by grief over the death of his beloved wife. He is a man of few words, none of them kind, who harbours resentment towards everyone around him, including his two sons, Mitch (Brian Haley) and Steve (Brian Howe). The old coot has no interest in the sermons of local priest Father Janovich (Christopher Carley), and even less time for the Asian next-door neighbours he labels "swamp rats". When Hmong gang-banger Spider (Doua Moua) and his four-strong posse scrap with neighbour's son Thao (Bee Vang) on his lawn, Walt intervenes with his rifle. Spider and co flee the scene and Thao's older sister Sue (Ahney Her) shows her gratitude by strengthening ties between the two households. Against the odds, Walt finds himself warming to his neighbours and he takes Thao under his wing, encouraging the lad to become the man of his house. However, Spider and his gang have Walt and his protege in their sights and the only language they understand begins with the pull of a trigger.

(L-r) Vu (BROOKE CHIA THAO), Thao (BEE VANG), Sue (AHNEY HER) and Walt Kowalski (CLINT EASTWOOD) in Warner Bros. Pictures' and Village Roadshow Pictures' drama Gran Torino, distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. Photo by Anthony Michael RivettiGran Torino is another beautifully crafted, deeply compassionate and timely piece of filmmaking from Eastwood, which provokes difficult moral questions about personal responsibility and sacrifice in a world riven by gang violence and peer pressure. The veteran star is mesmerising as a curmudgeon who chews on political correctness and spits out the bones, dismissing Sue's heartfelt thanks for saving her brother by growling, "All I did was get a bunch of jabbering gooks off my lawn." The strength of the performance lies in Eastwood's ability to chip away at Walt's steely facade and reveal the rage and despair within. "I lived with death for three years in Korea," Walt tells Father Janovich sadly, "I did things that won't leave me till the day I die - horrible things, things I have to live with." "Sounds like you know more about death than you do living," responds the holy man. Newcomers Vang and Her pale next to such a formidable, eye-catching performance, particularly in the heart-wrenching final act when Walt proves the love has no limits.

- Jo Planter


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