The film is based upon a character named Walt Kowalski. He’s a retired war veteran old-timer, and once worked in a Polish American assembly line. This hooking character is portrayed by the dexterous Clint Eastwood, and Clint never disappoints. He has also directed and produced the film, which has earned him 5-star reviews from fierce critics and not to mention numerous awards.
Walt’s Detroit neighborhood is overawed with immense changes. As portrayed by Clint, he is among the few white occupants still living in the Hmong-dominated quarter. But as the scenes unfold, we find his chauvinistic outlook towards the immigrants challenged by his new Hmong neighbors.
Fundamentally, the story delves deeper into the innominate Hmong community. Further engrained in the story, it would be difficult to overlook Walt’s austere rapport with his two sons. His constant growl of discontent is occasionally apprehended whenever Mitch Kowalski, his older son portrayed by Brian Haley, engages in any form of acquaintance. There is also a sense of displeasure, especially with Ashley, his granddaughter.
But ultimately, Clint, playing his role as the director, decides to take Walt on a journey of transformation through his friendship and respect with Bee Vang’s (Thao Vang) family.
The plot of this evocative film begins in a cathedral in the city of Detroit. There is a spooky feeling of concealment and thrill from the mutilate scenes as the pipe organ instrumental tune suffices mystery to a probable dark course to be met later on in the film.
As a member of the Thao Vang family tries to steal Walt’s Gran Torino; which seems to be the only thing that keeps him busy and pre-occupied we see a friendship once Walt figures out about the involvement of a local gang in his community.
In a different turn, a cordial relationship sprouts between Walt and the Hmong community. He also gets attached to Bee, and he is inclined to toughen him up.
Down the line, Walt establishes a bond with Bee’s family stronger compared to that between his sons. Most ordinarily, family rifts, especially between old folks, never get to be settled until loved ones are lost, and regret is all that is left behind. Perhaps, that’s one of the reasons why ‘Gran Torino’ came out quite reminiscent with its avid resonance with the common life.
Aside from Walt’s obloquy, an intimidating demeanor, and a nothing to lose sort of attitude, his scathing humor is occasionally seen with father Janovich. The priest is shot at some caustic sentiments towards his remarks on death, but he remains persistent in reaching out to Walt. He is determined to honor his word to look out for Walt, a commitment made to Dorothy, his wife.
This story takes us on the journey as Walt comes to defend the same communities he was completely oblivious and crude to.
The flow of the script is quite magnetic as we see Nick Schenk subtly craft a realistic and engaging script that takes an old narcissistic and chauvinistic man on a journey of change.
Clint’s gone days of The Outlaw Jose Wales and Dirty Harry bad-boy insouciant lines such as, ‘Ever notice how you come across somebody once in a while you shouldn’t have fucked with? That’s me,’ crop up.
Other occasions portraying the 1960’s Detroit lifestyle are showcased between him and barber Martin. ‘It’s been ten bucks for the last five years, you hard-nosed Polack son of a b*h,’ which do a great deal in stirring up the corrosive humor into the film. This brilliant dialogue brings these characters to life and puts them in an environment that forces them to change with time.
Characters and acting
Being a novel idea in the contemporary movie scene, Eastwood was keen to select an all Hmong cast. The main intention was for the storyline to resonate directly with the film in the most inept way, and this came with a stumbling block. Most of the lead and supporting cast had no prior acting experience, and only one had previously been on set. Despite this, the cast was able to put on a really good performance that made this film feel more realistic as we saw these characters interact with one another.
As for Clint Eastwood; there is just no stopping the man. He delivered a realistic portrait of Walt as he so effortlessly took over the role and claimed it his own. This performance; which Eastwood suggested would be his last was met with tremendous praise as he won several accolades for the role.
Music & cinematography
‘Gran Torino’ isn’t intensified by heavy SFX. In fact, we don’t get to hear an up-close rumbling of the Ford Torino, which styles the film title. Clint was focused on creating a film, mainly addressing racial and ethnic issues encountered by the minority. There was still room for the violence and absurdity that comes with any Eastwood classic; reminding us of some of his classic.
Conversely, there was a mix of mezzo forte, decrescendo, and a full musical album featured to incite the emotions that ebbed with the rise of different scenes. ‘Gran Torino,’ and ‘Wax a Car by Michael Stevens,’ are some of the most notable compositions; which is even more interesting when you realize that it is Eastwood himself who sings the title song.
This film, although not close to some of his greatest works still resonates with us. The themes of race and stereotypes are a big talking point; which poses some big questions of the American life. The delivery is just right, the characters on point, and on balance, emotionally moving.