Gripping, stunning, exhilarating, magnificent. There are no words powerful enough to describe Clint Eastwood’s performance in this film. This is either the scariest man alive or Eastwood at 150 years old has finally become one of the world’s finest actors. Gran Torino grabbed me by the balls and held me from beginning to end. This is not a movie I recommend…it’s a must see. Clint Eastwood’s “performance” is one best of the I’ve ever seen.
The story…a simple one: Walt Kowalski (Eastwood) a grizzled old war veteran hates everyone and everything. Only Daisy an old mutt, his Gran Torino bought new in 1972, his house where he’s lived for decades and his barber, a “Wop” foul-mouth he visits every three weeks, register as welcome. A crowbar and a load of dynamite could not get him out of the house, get his car or dog from him or change him from being the most verbally racist character in film. If this man doesn’t offend you, you must be the whitest Englishman alive. It’s the only group he doesn’t insult including his own: “Polack.” Walt is Archie Bunker with brass knuckles and a howitzer.
Walt’s wife of 50 years has just passed. His sons are spoiled self centered brats. His neighborhood populated by Hmong, a harried people spread out over Asia (and now America) and to Eastwood “Gooks.” Walt’s life has become a Groundhog Day type of existence, each day running into the next, self-hatred and loathing building to explosive proportions and only an annoying little nit of a priest disturbing his miserable existence. Only his hatred and Pabst Blue Ribbon keep him alive from day to day until a group of disgusting street vermin begin terrorizing his neighbor’s son. Pivotal to the film are the gnarly veteran’s chilling words to the gang, “Get off my lawn!”
If there was a single person in the theatre that wasn’t ready to wet him or herself at those words I’d be shocked. Chills ran up and down my spine. Eastwood’s “Walt” was one of the most brilliantly real characters I’ve ever seen in film, matching only Peter O’Toole’s incredible ability to make every character himself or himself every character. Eastwood will forever be Walt to me. Unfortunately O’Toole never won a performance Oscar, one of the great tragedies of the Academy. A fate I hope we don’t see for Eastwood. Eastwood’s Walt is my pick for the Oscar and it would be a monumental tragedy should he not receive it.
Oddly the film’s plot: rescuer rising to save a neighborhood/town/city/country not his or her own has been done a thousand times, but seldom this well. Gran Torino is a comic tragedy. Most of the film is funny, charming and even endearing, the sub-plot lurking in the background, but there are moments, hard moments and disturbing ones. This film is real life, not fantasy. Eastwood’s film manages to capture real moments.
Lastly, and the only downside to the film, is the less than stellar performance of the supporting actors. Some is distracting, some outright bad (perhaps a result of seeking realism by using non-actors), but overall the bad acting does not lessen the film’s impact nor the brilliance of the script or direction. I recommend Gran Torino to all, but be advised: you will be offended at some point. You will be disturbed at some point and you will laugh at many points, but you will most assuredly not be disappointed. This is Eastwood’s best performance and no one should miss it.
My rating…4 out of 5 stars (1 point off for acting)