Movie Review: Gran Torino

posted at 8:28 am on January 17, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

Gran Torino had at one time been rumored to be the latest sequel to the Dirty Harry series.  While that’s not the case, one might conjecture that Harry Callahan and Walt Kowalski might have been fast friends.  Kowalski, a Korean War veteran, has the same attitudes towards minorities and the same distance from the people around him.  Kowalski has to face off against criminals, like Harry Callahan, but Gran Torino shows that Clint Eastwood has done a lot of thinking about the vengeance genre — and has produced a deconstruction as worthy as Unforgiven was for Westerns.

** Some spoilers ahead **

The film starts off with the funeral of Kowalski’s wife, where we meet his sons and grandchildren, who are all self-absorbed, and as contemptuous of Kowalski as he is of them.  Kowalski refuses to leave his neighborhood, which has changed considerably over the decades into a gang-infested area with Hmong immigrants dominating his block.  When he rescues the family next door from an Asian gang, he becomes a hero to his neighbors and slowly becomes friends with the teenagers, Sue and Thao.  Unfortunately, the gang doesn’t quit trying to either recruit Thao and begins terrorizing their family, prompting Kowalski into action.

Fans of the vengeance genre know what follows from here.  We’ve seen it in Death Wish and The Brave One, where the protagonist defeats the criminals by out-terrorizing them.  Dirty Harry kills them dead.  Walt Kowalski tries this, too, only it backfires when Kowalski realizes that the gang-bangers can’t get out-terrorized.  Kowalski decides on a different path to rid the neighborhood of the gang and to free Thao and Sue for good — one which might come as a shock, although Eastwood gives Kowalski enough depth for some viewers to see where he’s going.

Eastwood gives us an interesting portrait of a man from a different age unable to adjust to his changing environment.  Kowalski is a bigot, without a doubt, but more out of ignorance and habit than malice.  He uses racially insensitive terms with his neighbors, but also with his friends, and Eastwood makes it clear that Kowalski doesn’t see the difference.  Ahney Her’s Sue understands Walt better than Walt understands himself and in a sense rescues him from his isolation.  Bee Vang delivers a good performance as Thao, stuck between his own gentle nature and the gang-bangers from his own family that threaten him.  Christopher Carley turns what could have been a cardboard role as a young priest into an affecting performance, and in the end the priest inadvertently helps save Kowalski’s soul.

Gran Torino is a terrific film, one that begins by indulging the well-known guideposts of the vengeance genre and winds up knocking them down.  The only off-key note in the film — and it’s a minor quibble — was the rather cartoonish portrayals of Kowalski’s own family.  The contrast between the Kowalskis and the Lors could have been made with a little more subtlety.  Even with that caveat, this could be one of the best films of 2008 (its release date, although it just went into wide release a week ago or so), and wouldn’t surprise me to be considered the best of the year.

Definitely not for young viewers; violence, bad language, and adult themes.

Update: It’s ironic that there is a controversy in the comments about the sacreligious use of the Lord’s name in the movie, since this has a very Christian message in the end.  The language in this case seems to be ironic, as is his initial reaction to the young priest.  Stick with it; it’s worth it.


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Are you a mailman?

Disturb the Universe on January 17, 2009 at 1:35 PM

Nationwide, U.S. Postal Service carriers suffered 3,423 dog attacks and bites in 2003.

There are approximately 4.5 million reported dog bites annually in the United States (nearly 2% of the American population). The majority of dog bites are never reported to local authorities.

No. So lucky me, I don’t have to worry about that tiny percentage.

I don’t dislike dogs. I like dogs. I dislike people’s notions that dogs are innocent, cannot think, have no free will, and cannot protect themselves. Leave fantasyland.

MadisonConservative on January 17, 2009 at 1:41 PM

I don’t dislike dogs. I like dogs. I dislike people’s notions that dogs are innocent, cannot think, have no free will, and cannot protect themselves. Leave fantasyland.

MadisonConservative on January 17, 2009 at 1:41 PM

If a dog is off-leash and aggressive, I’d put the blame on the owner who didn’t train the dog properly and is negligent in keeping it under control.

Have you ever met a vicious puppy? Dogs turn bad when they are mistreated.

Disturb the Universe on January 17, 2009 at 1:46 PM

MadisonConservative on January 17, 2009 at 1:41 PM

The Michael Vick dogs, for instance. I saw a documentary on the dogs confiscated from that bastard. Most of them were able to be rehabilitated.

Disturb the Universe on January 17, 2009 at 1:47 PM

Have you ever met a vicious puppy? Dogs turn bad when they are mistreated.

Disturb the Universe on January 17, 2009 at 1:46 PM

Have you ever met a vicious baby? “It wasn’t his fault, he had a bad childhood.”

I love dogs. However, they are animals with instincts. Do the wrong thing, and even your lovable retriever is capable of mauling you.

The Michael Vick dogs, for instance. I saw a documentary on the dogs confiscated from that bastard. Most of them were able to be rehabilitated.

Disturb the Universe on January 17, 2009 at 1:47 PM

I agree. That’s a clear case of abuse. However, almost 5 million reported dog bites a year in this country are not due to Michael Vicks training them to be attack dogs.

MadisonConservative on January 17, 2009 at 1:52 PM

My son and I watched it the day it came out. He said now he knew why his Dad acts the way he does and why I am so hard on him.

He’s right.

Thanks, Clint. Good movie. Strong lesson.

Subsunk

Subsunk on January 17, 2009 at 9:20 AM

+1 – also, what Spirit said in the first two comments.

jgapinoy, and perhaps others, if you have not seen the movie yourself, even if just reading reviews, any commentary on the topic of God/religion/beliefs/redemption is forbidden as regards this movie. Go see, and you will learn.

Is he a bigot? If watching what is happening with the once modest American neighborhoods makes one a bigot then so be it. That is what the movie portrays more than anything. It is real. Only the Utopian idealist ‘feel-gooders’ portray the movie into anything else. This is the main idea in the movie. All other was the art of portraying it.

His family, kids and grandkids were portrayed to absolute perfection. They didn’t get enough of what they deserved from this troubled sould, their father and grandfather, the pathetic rats.

I laughed and I cried, and highly recommend that all who still love what America used to be go see the movie.

Entelechy on January 17, 2009 at 2:02 PM

Gran Torino is absolutely about redemption. Consider one conversation between Walt and the Priest. Walt is recounting all the killing he did in the Korean war and the Priest attempts to console him by saying it was war and he was ordered to kill. Walt explains he was talking about the killing he did but was not ordered to do so. The guilt ate him up that’s why everything in his life had to be perfect. His car, house, children and grandchildren all had to be perfect, only his wife was perfect. He needed to make things right….

The rest, he’s just man of his time. Probably a teenager in the 40′ a time when his “colorful language” was the norm. The world changed Walt refused.

Go see it, no small children but if you can get your teenager to sit through it they might learn something.

Bogeyfre on January 17, 2009 at 2:02 PM

Do the wrong thing, and even your lovable retriever is capable of mauling you.

I have owned many dogs in my time and not a one has mauled me or anyone else. I’m sure from time to time a good dog snaps, but in the vast majority of cases dog attacks can be traced back to negligent owners. They are not all Michael Vicks, but they have done something wrong in their treatment of the animal, IMHO.

Disturb the Universe on January 17, 2009 at 2:03 PM

As regards his “redemption” – all he did in the end was show up at the booth, to make the priest, who was also flawed, smile. The “sins” he listed were risible, child-like mistake, all the breathing creatures make. He didn’t give an inch. He left each viewer to make of it what they wished to make…

Entelechy on January 17, 2009 at 2:05 PM

Before we moved to Utah, I started looking for a church home for the Logical Family. I found it online in an EFCA affiliated Church. All of that said, our pastor saw Gran Torino last week and wrote his review of it in his blog on the church website.

http://blog.lifelinecommunity.com/2009/01/the-glories-of-the-gospel-in-gran-torino/

Here is how he addressed the “language issue”…

It should be noted that the film does have quite a bit of language, many, many racial epithets and one brief glimpse over a man’s shoulder as he looks at an inappropriate magazine. So you should go in with your eyes open (or maybe closed). But I will tell you now you will leave with your heart stirred and your mind fixated on the Gospel. So I recommend it with the mentioned caveats, but the truth is it may be one of the most meaningful pictures you will have seen in years. After you watch it, go home and read 2 Corinthians 5:21, bow your head and thank your Father for the glories of the Gospel.

LL

Lady Logician on January 17, 2009 at 2:10 PM

Gran Torino is absolutely about redemption. Consider one conversation between Walt and the Priest. Walt is recounting all the killing he did in the Korean war and the Priest attempts to console him by saying it was war and he was ordered to kill. Walt explains he was talking about the killing he did but was not ordered to do so.

Say what?

Walt illustrated to the priest, as the priest acknowledged himself, that he knew nothing about death. The movie is really about the priest’s redemption! /s

The guilt ate him up that’s why everything in his life had to be perfect.

No offense, but that’s complete and utter conjecture. He’s not OCD.

His car, house, children and grandchildren all had to be perfect, only his wife was perfect. He needed to make things right….

If anything he illustrated you take care of the things you own. It’s a good principle to live by. As for his family, his grandchildren were disgraceful (especially from his view, texting during a funeral and mocking the cross – not endearing) and his children didn’t buy American when he spent his whole civi life building Fords.

How did he make any of those things right? The selfish attitude of his daugher-in-law and grandchildren is still evident in the last scene. He didn’t alter them by movie’s end. He didn’t reconcile with them, though he reached out to his son – a goodbye.

What he made right was to give a chance for Tau to become a man.

Spirit of 1776 on January 17, 2009 at 2:13 PM

Great movie.

What was very good was how they portrayed the priest as actually giving a damn about the request from his wife and his attempts to help save Walt. He was determined and not intimidated from Walt’s antics. This priest cared and you knew it. He was a professional and dedicated.

What is funny is that a couple of years ago I went to a Fr. Corapi conference in Chattanooga, TN. At the conference, hosted by the bishop and priests from the Diocese of Knoxville, there was one room with 4 priests available for the Sacrament of Reconciliation or Confession. I confessed my sins (including a zinger) to God through a very young priest who looked a lot like the priest in the movie. In a time when religious Faith is denigrated, it is so nice to see a youngster coming up through the ranks not intimidated by the overriding selfish culture of the day.

Sapwolf on January 17, 2009 at 2:14 PM

and his children didn’t buy American when he spent his whole civi life building Fords.

Spirit of 1776 on January 17, 2009 at 2:13 PM

Well, they could have been against the bailout.

Just sayin’.

MadisonConservative on January 17, 2009 at 2:16 PM

Well, they could have been against the bailout.

Ha. Good line.

Spirit of 1776 on January 17, 2009 at 2:18 PM

What he made right was to give a chance for Tau to become a man.

Spirit of 1776 on January 17, 2009 at 2:13 PM

He dies so another man can live. He’s a soldier to the end.

Spirit of 1776 on January 17, 2009 at 2:19 PM

Have you ever met a vicious baby? “It wasn’t his fault, he had a bad childhood.”

Actually, I also blame bad parenting for most (but not all)of the bad kids out there, too. The difference is that a human being has the intellect to reflect on their upbringing and choose to reject it, while an animal is going to react by instinct.

Disturb the Universe on January 17, 2009 at 2:22 PM

Spirit of 1776 on January 17, 2009 at 2:13 PM

Perfect illustration of a movie that makes the viewer think. You and I saw the same movie but we walked away with different perceptions. This is what makes it so good.

Bogeyfre on January 17, 2009 at 2:25 PM

There is something about dogs…you’re right, what’s up with that?

CarolynM on January 17, 2009 at 9:19 AM

The reason is that dogs appear to look up to us and love us unconditionally when other humans may not. This plays on feelings. I had a little Sheltie once and I had to put her down. She was the greatest dog and smart and good-natured and always glad to see me. When putting her down, tears did flow, but I knew that dogs only have spirits, NOT souls. I thanked God for her for the brightness she brought to my life and others.

When she looked up to you with affection as if I was a god to her, it makes me think how happy God must be when his servants look up to him in prayer, love, humility, loyalty, and freely choose Him over Hell.

Dogs were possibly the first animal that humankind domesticated, and can make us feel higher in that regard.

Sapwolf on January 17, 2009 at 2:26 PM

Bogeyfre on January 17, 2009 at 2:25 PM

Good point, that. It does make it compelling.

Spirit of 1776 on January 17, 2009 at 2:29 PM

Update: It’s ironic that there is a controversy in the comments about the sacreligious use of the Lord’s name in the movie, since this has a very Christian message in the end. The language in this case seems to be ironic, as is his initial reaction to the young priest. Stick with it; it’s worth it.

I’m surprised to come back & find all this reaction to my mentioning the language in the movie at 8:34AM. I must point out that I also wrote this at 8:53AM:

Pluggedinonline does say some good things about Torino:

As a piece of thought-provoking, cinematic art, Gran Torino is near brilliant. In this taut, two-hour tale, Eastwood grapples with some of life’s biggest questions: What is family? What makes a man? How can we fight evil when evil doesn’t follow the rules?

jgapinoy on January 17, 2009 at 2:30 PM

I just finished watching this film actually. A pretty cool film. Kowalzki though is a bit too cantankerous, like constantly. That’s a little wearing, yet overall a decent film.

Eastwood is great.

Benjamin9 on January 17, 2009 at 2:30 PM

Spirit of 1776 — your points are incisive and I agree.

There is a natural reflex to characterize Walt as a bigot and the story as his redemption. I think this owes to the unusual (even oddly shocking) event of a character like Walt in a modern film. Perhaps those of us who see a bit of our fathers or grandfathers in Walt understand more easily the inaptness of the “bigot” label. Walt is not redeeming himself so much as fulfilling his nature, albeit in a “heightened” manner that gives a nice twist to the genre. I found the film’s mix of earthiness and fable-like qualities a real joy.

rrpjr on January 17, 2009 at 2:35 PM

Madison is a disgruntled mailman. lol.

keep the change on January 17, 2009 at 2:37 PM

Walt is not redeeming himself so much as fulfilling his nature, albeit in a “heightened” manner that gives a nice twist to the genre.

Fulfilling his nature…very well put, rrpjr.

Spirit of 1776 on January 17, 2009 at 2:44 PM

Clint Eastwood is a rare breed of actor/director he understands story telling and I believe he’s damn good at it. Only he knows who Walt is and what’s in Walt’s head. While telling his story he gives us all the information we need to know so we can understand exactly who he thinks Walt is. But he throws in just enough nuance, just enough back story, just enough distractions, just enough blunt force (not always physical) to allow the viewer to make up their own mind. Some of us may be spot on in our perceptions others may not even be close but he’ll never tell.

Bogeyfre on January 17, 2009 at 3:02 PM

Another great movie by Clint Eastwood–a fine 40+ year long T.V. and movie career–as an actor and as a director.
***
Archie Bunker with an M-1 and a Colt .45 semi-auto pistol. A very different ending than I expected–but afterward all the clues were there as to what was really going to happen at the end–I missed them.
***
Way too much profanity and bigotry words in the movie–but the hero’s real courage and decency came shining through at the end.
***
Great moment when the dog tries to comfort him on the porch–a good dog knows when “his people” are having problems and tries to encourage them.
***
I feel a little like the hero–I have an American Flag flying at my house also–must be an “old guys” thing.
***
See this movie.
***
John Bibb

rocketman on January 17, 2009 at 3:35 PM

Archie Bunker with an M-1 and a Colt .45 semi-auto pistol. A very different ending than I expected–but afterward all the clues were there as to what was really going to happen at the end–I missed them.

I haven’t seen it, but this alone indicates quality writing. In a good film the foreshadowing is so subtle, the characters so compelling, and the plot so engrossing, that the audience fails to predict the ending yet finds it a satisfactory conclusion.

Sadly, in most films today the foreshadowing is obvious, the characters flat and the plot so rehashed, one can easily predict what will happen in the end from just watching the previews.

Disturb the Universe on January 17, 2009 at 3:53 PM

Saw it, and worth the price of a theater ticket. Some good humor.

I was struck with the indifference Walt had with the priest, much of the same that the Eastwood character had with the priest in Million Dollar Baby. I just wonder what Eastwood has against priests.

Good movie, a lot to relate to.

Hog Wild on January 17, 2009 at 4:16 PM

Great take on this movie Bogey…you and I saw the same flick. I’m a huge Eastwood fan, and his movies are always interesting and entertaining.

Madison, dogs love unconditionally and will always have a special place in the hearts of most humans. That’s just the way it is. If you don’t get it, stop trying. You never will. I’d rather hang out with my hunting dog than all but a handful of the people I know.

dakine on January 17, 2009 at 4:29 PM

My Vietnamese friend said Gran Torino was ‘Number one great movie’. I had to agree.

Kevin M on January 17, 2009 at 4:43 PM

Kevin M on January 17, 2009 at 4:43 PM

lol

Disturb the Universe on January 17, 2009 at 4:45 PM

Take it to conservatives and their love of icons to not realize just what “Gran Tornio” is – a move about the fall of an evil America. Has it flown over everybody’s heads that the Hmong “Toad” drives off at the end in the Torino? Can you pea-brains not get the symbolism of that message.

Let me spell it out – foreigners have taken over America. And if you watch the movie you see that set-up by showing “pussy” white boys and the greedy/materialistic sons and grandchildren of Eastwood’s character. He juxtaposes these representations of whites with that of the Hmong love of family. Yes, there are bad-guy Hmongs, but obviously infected by the evil white man’s culture (which Clint makes clear as one of the fallen values of hard work and patience).

Eastwood has gone all Goldwater on you conservatives, you can’t even see that? What is it with old people going all soft in the head at the end of life? Making amends for their nasty non-liberal biases? If you’re 20 and not a liberal, you’re an idiot. If you’re 40 and not a conservative, you never worked a day in your life. And if you’re seventy and not a liberal – QUIT TAKING SO MANY BLUE PILLS!!!

Who knows. But I know this, Clint Eastwood just took a piss on all you ditto-heads, knowing you’d think it was just rain.

klickink.wordpress.com on January 17, 2009 at 4:53 PM

I just wonder what Eastwood has against priests.

Good movie, a lot to relate to.

Hog Wild on January 17, 2009 at 4:16 PM

Probably just a representation of religion in general, not just priests. Religion sets all this ideals/morals you have to follow, and if you don’t you’re just EVIL. Some religionistas fail to see how everyday life is not so easy to live with out making mistakes. Sometimes a lot (I could write a book on mine). I think he’s just telling the priest that without living life you can’t really tell others how to live it.

When you realize (those capable of critical thinking) that the Bible is itself nothing more than Grimm’s Tales, morals on life and the capability of humans to fail (or even their capacity for evil), it’s kind of funny.

klickink.wordpress.com on January 17, 2009 at 4:59 PM

Wow klickink…how do you really fee? I think if you had posted your takes yesterday, this would have been a 300 post thread.

dakine on January 17, 2009 at 5:02 PM

And if you watch the movie you see that set-up by showing “pussy” white boys and the greedy/materialistic sons and grandchildren of Eastwood’s character. He juxtaposes these representations of whites with that of the Hmong love of family.

Clearly.

He reinforces that white America = teh evil with such white villains as the construction boss, the barber, the priest, and the barkeep. These evil white men illustrate the failings of working, but all being shown, um, at work. The priest one of the most diligent, notably.

I have to agree with your point about the gangs though. They are infested with white man ideology. In fact, I believe if you look closely through the blinds on the windows at the end of the movie, you can see their various degrees hanging on the walls. Sociology, women’s studies, art – I think – though, it was quick, maybe I missed one or two others.

Of course, the kid drives off in the American car after adopting American values (or perhaps better said merging into); he didn’t chop the top or paint flames, etc.

After reading your comment, though, I’m now outraged the granddaughter didn’t get the car. She deserved it.

Spirit of 1776 on January 17, 2009 at 5:10 PM

Who knows. But I know this, Clint Eastwood just took a piss on all you ditto-heads, knowing you’d think it was just rain.

klickink.wordpress.com on January 17, 2009 at 4:53 PM

I haven’t seen it yet. Your take could be right. Or maybe some bi-polar in-between. I get the impression Old Clint’s a little conflicted himself.

Disturb the Universe on January 17, 2009 at 5:11 PM

klickink.wordpress.com on January 17, 2009 at 4:53 PM

Hello. Please click the little “X” in the top right corner of your screen.

MadisonConservative on January 17, 2009 at 5:30 PM

Just got back after seeing it with my 17 year old twins…

One thing I identified with, that most of my generation would miss, and my kids had NO clue of… is how you can somthing can happen in your past, which does leave an indelible mark upon you… and you cannot explain it at all to those who have not had similar experiences.

I was privileged to have that conversation with my father after I came back from Lebanon in 83… and I finally heard about his Korean and WWII experiences… because we finaly had a similar frame of reference…

Its also instructional that people don’t like the namecalling in this film… when its apparent that he is not a bigot… he pretty much talks that way about everyone.

Good flick… glad I went to see it.

Romeo13 on January 17, 2009 at 5:31 PM

Didn’t read past the spoiler alert.
There’s not too many Hollywood “products” that are worth paying for.
So I would like to see this with a fresh pair of eyes.

silverfox on January 17, 2009 at 5:32 PM

This is not Obama’s America!

Hening on January 17, 2009 at 7:02 PM

Well, I did not like it too much. OK story idea about an old hard core guy who lives in a neighborhood going into the pit but the young actors were terrible…

jed58 on January 17, 2009 at 10:41 AM

Totally agree. Clint was awesome in his role, tho

Ugly on January 17, 2009 at 7:04 PM

Spoiler in my post here: I am not religious, but I’m very surprised they didn’t reference the Christian ideal of laying down your life for your friends.

SpencerFan on January 17, 2009 at 7:38 PM

He reinforces that white America = teh evil with such white villains as the construction boss, the barber, the priest, and the barkeep. These evil white men illustrate the failings of working, but all being shown, um, at work.
Spirit of 1776 on January 17, 2009 at 5:10 PM

And how does he show these “good” white men? Making backroom deals, slandering each other (even if jokes, there’s always a little truth in a joke – in this case the inbred racism). There not positive portrayals like you think. They show the indemic failures of not only the American Dream, but the lie of our foundation as one of Liberty.

Of course, the kid drives off in the American car after adopting American values (or perhaps better said merging into); he didn’t chop the top or paint flames, etc.
Spirit of 1776 on January 17, 2009 at 5:10 PM

Those IDEALS are not “American” – they are universal ideals, ones found even in communism – like it or not.

klickink.wordpress.com on January 17, 2009 at 8:03 PM

klickink.wordpress.com on January 17, 2009 at 4:53 PM

Hello. Please click the little “X” in the top right corner of your screen.

MadisonConservative on January 17, 2009 at 5:30 PM

Right. No freedom of speech ’cause like I say, Liberty is Dead.

And besides, nothing but HOT AIR here anyway.

klickink.wordpress.com on January 17, 2009 at 8:04 PM

Or maybe some bi-polar in-between. I get the impression Old Clint’s a little conflicted himself.

Disturb the Universe on January 17, 2009 at 5:11 PM

Riiiight. All people that express new and individual ideas are considered crazy (your bi-polar comment). Why am I not surprised.

klickink.wordpress.com on January 17, 2009 at 8:10 PM

After reading your comment, though, I’m now outraged the granddaughter didn’t get the car. She deserved it.

Spirit of 1776 on January 17, 2009 at 5:10 PM

No, that would make Eastwood too obviously a liberal. I’m sure his wife pushed for it though.

klickink.wordpress.com on January 17, 2009 at 8:11 PM

Wow klickink…how do you really fee? I think if you had posted your takes yesterday, this would have been a 300 post thread.

dakine on January 17, 2009 at 5:02 PM

Yeah, well, I never get invited to a party until it’s too late.

klickink.wordpress.com on January 17, 2009 at 8:12 PM

It was an awesome movie.

Key West Reader on January 17, 2009 at 8:22 PM

As someone who has God, Country and Detroit(in that order) in my own belief system – it was one movie worth seeing.

If anything he illustrated you take care of the things you own. It’s a good principle to live by.

Only if you don’t talk to a right-winger. It seems to be that you only take care of those in third-world countries before you take care of your own.

Spirit of 1776 on January 17, 2009 at 5:10 PM

Drive a Toyota, don’t expect to get the Ford. Think about that next time you go for the golf cart and not the car.

Besides, you’re not left wanting in a Detroit car, (save for environmentalism) it is something you usually want to drive.

sethstorm on January 17, 2009 at 9:22 PM

Yeah great movie, but just for the hell of it, he could have whistled a little Good-Bad-Ugly theme music on the way over to the “shoot-out!” It would have stood the theater on its collective ear!!

Dread Pirate Roberts VI on January 17, 2009 at 9:27 PM

Ed, with all due respect, I believe you missed a central undercurrent in the film. Walt’s character has never been able to let go of his conscience over his wartime experience. This drives his self-loathing, and he walls himself off from others using epithets as armor.

I’m sure if you watch it you will see what I’m talking about. I was raised by a guy much like Walt, and I saw immediately why he was tormented.

That’s why he can’t confess his sins, that’s why he can’t have emotional attachment to others, that’s why he’s such a perfectionist. He’s trying to atone for his past, and it torments him. He finally “gets it” at the end, and we see what happens when atonement is made possible.

Bigurn on January 17, 2009 at 9:33 PM

Great to enter a thread about Gran Torino and find the first dozen posts on this page about friggin’ dogs.

Awesome.

Anyhoo, will be off to see this when it finally arrives here. I suppose I should sit down afterwards and try and find the liberal and conservative bias in the film, but I’d rather just enjoy it for what it is, eh?

Reaps on January 17, 2009 at 9:59 PM

Anyhoo, will be off to see this when it finally arrives here. I suppose I should sit down afterwards and try and find the liberal and conservative bias in the film, but I’d rather just enjoy it for what it is, eh?

Reaps on January 17, 2009 at 9:59 PM

Just enjoy it. It is what it is, a good movie.

sethstorm on January 17, 2009 at 10:06 PM

Very good movie. Well worth the price of admission. I took my dad to see it, and he really enjoyed it. In fact, he’s still talking about it, of course, he’s an Eastwood fan. He’s also a Vietnam vet, so, he explained a few of the references that I didn’t get. We felt like there was a line about the dog that had been set up throughout the movie that wasn’t used, but I guess the writer felt it was too predictable.

meltenn on January 17, 2009 at 10:28 PM

I might have to pay for a theater ticket, something that I haven’t done in years. I am going to miss the day when Eastwood is no longer around.

SC.Charlie on January 17, 2009 at 10:48 PM

klickink.wordpress.com on January 17, 2009 at 4:53 PM

I wonder what climbed up your a$$ and died. Could it be . . . Satan???

(Did AP leave the reg window open too long? Jus’ sayin’)

platypus on January 17, 2009 at 10:48 PM

GREAT MOVIE! Eastwood should get an Oscar but won’t even be nominated, Neither will Mickey Rourke after his comments in G.Q. More blacklisting in Hollweird and it’s JUST beginning.

nelsonknows on January 17, 2009 at 10:49 PM

Oh yeah — it was a GREAT movie. It won’t win the Oscar for best picture but I bet there are a couple of supporting oscars in it.

platypus on January 17, 2009 at 10:51 PM

I’ll wait until it comes out on DVD. Too many strong emotions from one film might make me go into labor a little sooner than I’m ready.

Yeah, well, I never get invited to a party until it’s too late.

klickink.wordpress.com on January 17, 2009 at 8:12 PM

You weren’t wanted!

newton on January 18, 2009 at 12:50 AM

I just saw Gran Torino. As with all Great stories the deeper you dig the more you find. I know there are so many aspect to this movie that it is impossible to capture them all with one little posting. This SHOULD be picture of the year!

Spoiler in this Post so don’t read my thoughts if haven’t seen it yet. But, please go SEE IT!

First the Gran Torino is America. Big, but not to flashy with a powerful engine and green, yes GREEN!

Walt helped build the Gran, hell he put in the steering column. When someone tried to steal it he grabbed his M1 Garand and fought them off even getting a little bloody in the process.

As he nears the end of his life who is going to inherit the Gran? This is the question. The blacks that are stuck in the ghetto don’t even see the Gran. All they see is White Redneck America (White Ford Pickup). You have a “White” youth trying to act “Black” because he thinks it is cool, but comes up short with both Walt and the “Blacks”

Walt’s spoiled granddaughter feels the Gran will belong to her simply because she is a blood kin. Others see it and just want to take it. No, that privilege must be earned. Tao starts out as a nobody. His Asian culture, although close, still comes up short. As Tao explains, working with the dirt is traditionally women’s work. Walt knows to really “get” America you need to pour your sweat and blood into her and not be afraid to get a little dirty in the process. Tao works hard, struggling against seemingly insurmountable odds represented by the tree stump. This scene is his baptism. Walt knows that a blue collar, hard working, family oriented person with strong faith based underpinnings is the person that will inherit the Gran and control this great and powerful beast. Tao is the youth who would not fight when he is personally attacked but when his family is hurt he is prepared to fight and die if necessary to avenge/defend them.

No, this is not pissing on Right America as some have posted, this is Clint saying that it is Conservative American’s, no matter what they look like or where they originally come from, that will eventually inherit this great land.

Wampus on January 18, 2009 at 2:34 AM

No, this is not pissing on Right America as some have posted, this is Clint saying that it is Conservative American’s, no matter what they look like or where they originally come from, that will eventually inherit this great land.

Wampus on January 18, 2009 at 2:34 AM

Agreed. I also disagree with Ed that Clint’s character is “a bigot.” And disagree with an earlier description in comments that the other supporting characters — barbershop, etc. — are “bigots”. People who assume that that is bigotry as also expressly “White America” talking, also, are wrong: go live among other cultures elsewhere or even in areas in the U.S. and you’ll quickly discover that that’s how many people are, how they talk about others, etc. — the only difference is the starting point or reference point of whoever expresses similar statements.

Gettin’ more than weary of reading/hearing all about the “dying White people in America” rouse. Clint Eastwood’s White, his character dies, ergo, “White America is dying” is just more of that racist/ethnic supremacy stuff but from a different color’s perspective.

I think Wampus (@2:34 AM, previous comments) sums things up as well as any can. This is a great film, despite the “harsh language” (but it’s realistic, don’t kid yourself it’s not) — go see it — and worth the DVD purchase later.

S on January 18, 2009 at 8:13 AM

^^ “ruse” not “rouse”.

S on January 18, 2009 at 8:13 AM

Kowalski is a bigot, without a doubt, but more out of ignorance and habit than malice. He uses racially insensitive terms with his neighbors, but also with his friends, and Eastwood makes it clear that Kowalski doesn’t see the difference.

As per the politically incorrect language, how refreshing for self sufficient and law abiding old men to speak normally without being prosecuted for “hate language”.

I would identify the bigotry in revising definitions of words in order to fool the masses into willing conformity. Where’s the respect for the word when the definition has been altered? Newspeak.

As per labeling every old fart a bigot, don’t forget to include gramma and everyone else as well, each for being themselves. (The neighbor girl and boy begin as “innocent” counterpoint to the old man.) The politically correct modus operandi would have been to ACT polite outside, and call the police but certainly NOT to get involved in any way.

The old man used his own language and lived his own life. He would have been a bigot had he feigned to love his neighbor when he didn’t. He proved he was no bigot when he made his sacrifice. Actions speak louder than words. It was the old fart who was willing to do all that it took to make things right for the promise he saw within his young neighbors.

From what I understood, a young screen writer submitted this script to Eastwood who chose to produce it without alterations. That’s passing the torch with some true grit; faith without works is dead.

Kudos, Nick Schenk!

maverick muse on January 18, 2009 at 8:40 AM

The ACLU are bigots if you really need an example of bigotry, The American Civil Liberties Union.

maverick muse on January 18, 2009 at 8:47 AM

but they have done something wrong in their treatment of the animal, IMHO.

Disturb the Universe on January 17, 2009 at 2:03 PM

Typical ignorant rantings.

Dogs are bred for certain traits. Pits for example are overly aggressive because those traits are watched for and encouraged. These fools who constantly whine about how their Pit is gentle as a lamb have simply be fortunate that those aggressive traits were never triggered. For every one of them the “gentle” Pits, there is another who has mauled a neighbor or family member. And these dogs were never trained to be aggressive. There are such things as “bad” dogs. Mostly in their breeds.

I have owned many good dog breeds and the human MUST establish himself as the Alpha of the “pack”. If you don’t, good dogs become bad dogs who dig in the trash and generally disrespect their human masters. That means you must treat a dog exactly how it is treated in a wolf pack (as ALL dogs descended from the wolf). This includes voice tone, body language, denying the dog all food except for what you provide, and an occasional rough handling. This is limited to pinning your dog to the ground by his neck and using a very guttural tone of voice while scolding him.

The most abuse leveled on dogs are done by milk toast sissy-Mary animal rights wackjobs who project human traits on their animals. It sickens me to watch such abuse.

csdeven on January 18, 2009 at 10:05 AM

As per the politically incorrect language, how refreshing for self sufficient and law abiding old men to speak normally without being prosecuted for “hate language”

No one here has suggested prosecution for racial slurs, but that doesn’t make it right. If you want to know how it might feel to hear such things, take your family to a rural part of Dubai & hang around until someone calls your kids “white devils”.

jgapinoy on January 18, 2009 at 10:11 AM

You want to see bigotry? Look to the Japanese and a few other Asian cultures. Many segments of the “minority” populations of this country are foul bigots. They believe that all success in this country is based on racism by whites. Militant whitey haters like Michelle Obama want to destroy the paths to success that are based on performance in favor of the minority path to success that is based on skin color.

Dr King is certainly mortified by the high-jacking of his message by the Obama types who now see success based on having the “right” skin color.

csdeven on January 18, 2009 at 10:17 AM

klickink.wordpress.com on January 17, 2009 at 4:59 PM

Oh! So if a movie shows good “foreigners” & bad white people, the movie is telling me that all non-whites are good & all whiteys are bad. I understand now. (even if the movie also shows good whites & bad non-whites)

jgapinoy on January 18, 2009 at 10:17 AM

If you want to know how it might feel to hear such things, take your family to a rural part of Dubai & hang around until someone calls your kids “white devils”.

jgapinoy on January 18, 2009 at 10:11 AM

Somebody call the Waaaaaaaabulance. I suppose those people should hide in their houses and wait for the government to make it right by giving them entitlements? My kids were taught to judge bigots and never accept any label on themselves that isn’t based in fact.

And since when do whites have to visit foreign countries to be called such names? Whites as an entire race are judged as white devils in this country. Especially by the MSM. I am not going to let it affect my ability to be successful. I WILL adapt to any treatment, fair or not. Success knows no color in a capitalist society. In Oslime-a’s society, skin color is the determining factor for success.

csdeven on January 18, 2009 at 10:23 AM

Ed,

As per “old farts”–remember that the same folks who label them the “greatest generation” are the same who call them bigots.

Labeling previous generations as “bigots” is just another way to practice bigotry’s newest vogue. Politically correctness is bigotry.

Bigotry exists just as people are imperfect. Admitting our own fallibility is the first step to maturity; and maturity is NOT perfection (anyone presuming that maturity is perfection is a bigot). The willingness to overlook others’ faults while ironically satirizing their essence proved whether or not you could “fit in” to the melting pot rather than isolate into the gangland of your own inbred identity. That inbred ID is the expression of one’s own determination to be intolerant of the melting pot folks who practice their own “tolerance” that vents w/o violence via slurs.

Tomato. Tomato.
Potato. Potato.
Comparing racial nicknames vs. the self-righteous hyphenated politically correct racial ID brings to mind, “a rose is a rose.”

The old fart was not calling women c*nts or whores or anything truly PERSONALLY offensive regarding character.

So far as fitting into society, one’s racial profile is only skin deep. Being color blind is offensive to any race that wants special treatment.

Voters who make their own racial profile the only thing that matters in the world, refusing to get over themselves, are turning everyone into the downtrodden and removing all means to revive the spirit of e pluribus unum.

All of history is being blotted out by socialists because someone somewhere is offended by what happened and refuses to get over it, even though it didn’t happen to them, and no longer happens, and laws now prevent any word of recall or REASON. Enlightenment, Liberalism, Marriage, Revisionism.

maverick muse on January 18, 2009 at 10:26 AM

As per the politically incorrect language, how refreshing for self sufficient and law abiding old men to speak normally without being prosecuted for “hate language”

No one here has suggested prosecution for racial slurs, but that doesn’t make it right. If you want to know how it might feel to hear such things, take your family to a rural part of Dubai & hang around until someone calls your kids “white devils”.–jgapinoy on January 18, 2009 at 10:11 AM

Hate crimes are all crimes. But those involving persecution of “special” people get “special” prosecution. Progressive evolution is what I noted. You agree with me that regardless of who you are, regardless of where you are, there is someone who will call you a name that you don’t like. You agree with my premise, get over it. See it for what it is, nothing more or less. And get over it.

My point is that PC revisionism only benefits socialism and only hurts our American Constitutional heritage, government and legacy of ‘life, liberty and happiness’.

maverick muse on January 18, 2009 at 10:35 AM

Wampus on January 18, 2009 at 2:34 AM

Thats why multigenerational/blood citizens make sure your interpretation doesn’t happen.

sethstorm on January 18, 2009 at 10:42 AM

Just saw this film last night, lots of good comments. (outside of the one notable thread troll)

One aspect no one’s commented on yet is the theme of Confession. Walt is Roman Catholic, so for his character (and for the film) the Catholic idea of Confession and Penance is a theme that ties the movie together from start to finish. Remember that it was his wife’s dying wish that the priest get Walt to attend confession and achieve the peace his soul needed but could never find. The priest attempted to do this diligently throughout the film, but when Walt confesses to him he just talks about some minor things and is given some minor penance in return. (10 Hail Mary’s) But wait – that isn’t the end of this theme, because in the basement with Tao, he DOES confess to Tao exactly what’s been eating on him all these years – he shot a young man who only wanted to surrender in the face and got a medal for it. THAT’S the confession his wife knew he needed to make. Why confess to Tao, and not to the priest? Because Tao is, to Walt, the same kind of man as the one he had wronged all those years ago. He needed to confess to the ones he had wronged, not to some dispassionate third party. And what penance is then appropriate, what *to Walt* will redeem him from the guilt he’s felt for so long? For taking a life, he must save a life, with his own life. The shedding of blood calls for blood sacrifice – and now, at the last moment of his life he is able to end it at complete peace with himself. He has found his redemption, as his wife knew he needed to, and as we were told he needed at the very beginning of the film. Not through the priest, but through his own sacrifice.

To drive home this point visually, after the confrontation Walt lays on the ground with his arms splayed out in the form of a crucifix. Hardly a coincidence.

WWS on January 18, 2009 at 11:08 AM

Just saw this film last night, lots of good comments. (outside of the one notable thread troll)

One aspect no one’s commented on yet is the theme of Confession. Walt is Roman Catholic, so for his character (and for the film) the Catholic idea of Confession and Penance is a theme that ties the movie together from start to finish. Remember that it was his wife’s dying wish that the priest get Walt to attend confession and achieve the peace his soul needed but could never find. The priest attempted to do this diligently throughout the film, but when Walt confesses to him he just talks about some minor things and is given some minor penance in return. (10 Hail Mary’s) But wait – that isn’t the end of this theme, because in the basement with Tao, he DOES confess to Tao exactly what’s been eating on him all these years – he shot a young man who only wanted to surrender in the face and got a medal for it. THAT’S the confession his wife knew he needed to make. Why confess to Tao, and not to the priest? Because Tao is, to Walt, the same kind of man as the one he had wronged all those years ago. He needed to confess to the ones he had wronged, not to some dispassionate third party. And what penance is then appropriate, what *to Walt* will redeem him from the guilt he’s felt for so long? For taking a life, he must save a life, with his own life. The shedding of blood calls for blood sacrifice – and now, at the last moment of his life he is able to end it at complete peace with himself. He has found his redemption, as his wife knew he needed to, and as we were told he needed at the very beginning of the film. Not through the priest, but through his own sacrifice.

To drive home this point visually, after the confrontation Walt lays on the ground with his arms splayed out in the form of a crucifix. Hardly a coincidence.

WWS on January 18, 2009 at 11:08 AM

Dogs are bred for certain traits. Pits for example are overly aggressive because those traits are watched for and encouraged. These fools who constantly whine about how their Pit is gentle as a lamb have simply be fortunate that those aggressive traits were never triggered. For every one of them the “gentle” Pits, there is another who has mauled a neighbor or family member. And these dogs were never trained to be aggressive. There are such things as “bad” dogs. Mostly in their breeds.
….
csdeven on January 18, 2009 at 10:05 AM

You’re 180 degrees wrong. Pit bulls are not bred to be aggressive towards people at all, though they can be aggressive towards other dogs, as most dogs can.

The most potentially dangerous dogs you can own are the ones that are territorial and protective, such as Dobermans, German Shepherds, and Rottweilers. Of course, these are also the very dogs you want to buy if you’re getting one for protection.

But if you’re getting a dog for protection, don’t buy a Pit Bull. That is not what they’re bred for.

Unless you simply want to buy a dog that looks impressive enough to intimidate others. In such a case, the Pit Bull looks scary, while actually being quite gentle.

It’s not the gentle Pit Bulls that are the exceptions, but the vicious few. The problem there are people who get a Pit Bull because it looks scary, then train it to be vicious. That’s almost criminal, because they’re uncommonly good pets.

ThereGoesTheNeighborhood on January 18, 2009 at 4:05 PM

I haven’t seen this movie–it’s not about a dog,is it? I thought it was about a mean old white man and some poor,misunderstood minorities who have been desensitized by the mean old white man culture…(and who would have been infinitely better off in their homeland.)Why they stay in this mean rotten country, I’ll never know.
All these Hollywood films where white man bad,minority good—since Dances With Wolves,I’ve watched them, Oliver Stone, Michael Moore,even people like Kevin Costner,Tom Hanks,Ron Howard,all treat white society as insane,cruel, or beneath contempt.IS this movie any different? I’d really like to know.

lizzee on January 18, 2009 at 5:45 PM

ThereGoesTheNeighborhood on January 18, 2009 at 4:05 PM

Oh great! Another one!

Pits were bred to be aggressive…PERIOD. ANYTHING that triggers their aggressive instincts will be attacked. If you doubt it, simple get a hold of a family whose “gentle” Pit mauled or killed a child.

Pits are a worthless breed and should be rendered extinct.

csdeven on January 18, 2009 at 5:56 PM

My wife and I went to see Gran Turino this afternoon and we both remarked to each other at the same time what a powerful and moving story and performance it was. We plan on going to see it again.

The generational differences between Walt and Thao vividly depicts the behavior and speech of my father’s generation. I saw my father in Walt as he used racial and ethnic slurs up to the day he died and never thought it was wrong with his speech, even though near the end of his life he used them less when my children were around.

I would recommend this film to everyone 13 and older, as younger audiences may not be able to relate to Walt’s generation.

belad on January 18, 2009 at 9:44 PM

Pits are a worthless breed and should be rendered extinct.

csdeven on January 18, 2009 at 5:56 PM

I have owned two pits. Zero issues.

You are a moron.

Disturb the Universe on January 18, 2009 at 10:27 PM

I thought now that the US has a first generation African as president, Whites could use racial slurs without it being a controversy, like all the other skin colors?

Hening on January 19, 2009 at 7:24 AM

Up until 1960 or so, it was perfectly possible to tell a gripping story without recourse to gratuitous or graphic violence, or vulgar language. What changed?

I’ll pass on this one, as with so many others.

MrLynn on January 19, 2009 at 8:45 AM

Agree with Ed. Me and Mrs. Crazy Legs saw it on Saturday. Absolutely fantastic movie.

crazy_legs on January 19, 2009 at 9:43 AM

I just saw this last night. Even with Ed’s sort of spoilers, I completely lost track of where Kowalski was heading. Great movie. I took my 13 year old and he love it too, but I haven’t heard language and racial insults like that for 25 years.

Rich on January 19, 2009 at 12:46 PM

Walt Kowalski tries this, too, only it backfires when Kowalski realizes that the gang-bangers can’t get out-terrorized.

An incorrect premise. The problem is the terror recipe for them is substantially nastier for the gang bangers than he is willing to employ.

dogsoldier on January 19, 2009 at 12:46 PM

Unfortunately, the gang doesn’t quit trying to either recruit Thao and begins terrorizing their family, prompting Kowalski into action.

Ed — this sentence does not make sense. The word “either” is probably an artifact remaining from a previous version that you edited out. You might want to remove the word.

philwynk on January 19, 2009 at 3:30 PM

Up until 1960 or so, it was perfectly possible to tell a gripping story without recourse to gratuitous or graphic violence, or vulgar language. What changed?

I’ll pass on this one, as with so many others.

MrLynn on January 19, 2009 at 8:45 AM

Let me recommend Defiance. I saw it yesterday; it’s great.

Disturb the Universe on January 19, 2009 at 4:04 PM

I thought it was an ok movie but to me.. Eastwoods character was too forced. Another poster made the comparison to Archie Bunker. I was thinking the same thing.. Archie Bunker on steroids.

GoodBoy on January 19, 2009 at 5:44 PM

Thought it was good–it’s not often you see movies about spiritual or ethical values.

One quibble: can’t we have one major character who isn’t twisted by committing war crimes?

PattyJ on January 19, 2009 at 7:44 PM

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