Gran Torino - DVD Review

'a film that knows it has a great conclusion but struggles with the question of 'how do we get to it?''

As a 'starter for 10', here are my brief and fleeting opinions on some other Clint Eastwood directed films; Unforgiven is a good but not brilliant take on the western, Midnight In The Garden of Good and Evil is awful, Mystic River is excellent, Million Dollar Baby is not bad but overrated, Changeling was one of the films of last year and Gran Torino... well, Gran Torino kind of sits in the middle of all of that.

Like farts in the wind however, brief and fleeting opinions rarely last and matter little and therefore let me expand and tie all that into one: I think Eastwood is an excellent actor and a very good director who, like all good directors, is prone to making the occasional mistake and has also in recent years, enjoyed both the best period of his directing career and benefited from an extreme warmth of feeling from many in the industry. In short, I don't think Gran Torino is as good as many people want it to be.

Gran Torino is a film that knows it has a great conclusion but it struggles with the question of 'how do we get to it?' Witness the early scenes where Eastwood's misery-guts war veteran Walt Kowalski is set up as a racist and snarling loner, mourning the death of his wife whilst surviving his children and their offspring. The scenes here are clunky and predictable, Kowalski actually catches his granddaughter smoking a roll-up in his garage for Pete's sake, was there no other way of showing she's a little off-the-rails?

As it moves on things do loosen up and Eastwood starts to come into his own but the film still struggles with some of its themes. Kowalski remains a racist bigot right until the end for example, continuing to call the Hmong child (Bee Vang) he has befriended all sorts of names. The film seems to accept this fact because; firstly, Kowalski knows him secondly, because he ends up doing them more than one good deed and thirdly, because the moral compass of the movie (Ahney Her's Sue) says it is OK. I'm less sure and while I'm absolutely, certainly, not calling the movie racist here or suggesting it isn't in-keeping with Eastwood's character it just didn't quite sit right and muddied up some of the race-related themes the film attempts to address.

Rotten Tomatoes perhaps sums this up better than I ever could in its reviews summary of Gran Torino, calling it a 'minor entry in Eastwood's body of work'. I'm not sure what a 'minor entry' is or why this is one but I do know exactly what they mean. If however, this is the last time we are to see Clint on screen then it is at least a fitting role for him to bow out with, even if the whole package isn't quite the world's most expensive gift paper.

Look Further...

'This is an important film because it is Eastwood’s acting swan song. More importantly, however, Gran Torino is a hell of a lot of fun!' - Brian's Film Review, 4*


  1. I enjoyed this a bit more, but not much. I didn't mind the story so much as I just felt the acting was awful all around. A real shame I must say because it's a pretty good story. Of course you also think Unforgiven is only good so :P.

  2. Clint Eastwood has been a marvelous filmmaker throughout his entire career, and this movie is not a typical shoot em up Eastwood flick. It takes on generational differences, ethnic differences, beauty, ugliness and sacrifice all in one well blended story.

  3. Hi DAMIN, thanks for stopping by. While I don't agree I can see why people liked the film and that of course is your, and their, right and opinion. For me it didn't do it for the reasons I laid out in the article but hey ho.

    Your comment about Eastwood being a 'marvellous filmmaker throughout his entire carer' though is what I was trying to get at in the article. I'm not saying he's not a very good filmmaker (the opposite in fact) but people seem to forget he's capable of making bad films. Have you seen Midnight In The Garden Of Good and Evil or... ahem... Space Cowboys? Both Eastwood directed, both awful. All I'm saying is I think he gets some undeserved credit as a director because he is quite rightly regarded as an acting legend.

    Fair point on its breadth of themes though - it was certainly brave to try and tackle a whole host of them. Glad you liked it and as I say, thanks for stopping by to leave your opinion.