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Gran Torino: Movie Review

Gran Torino tells the Story of Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood), a disgruntled Korean War Veteran, who has lived in the same neighborhood for most of his life. He's disconnected from his adult children and their families and disappointed by the changing cultural mix of his community which is now largely Asian.

Walt's Hmong neighbors are, one night, confronted by an Asian gang looking to recruit one of the gang members younger cousins, Thao (Bee Vang). The ensuing melee spills onto Walt's lawn and he inadvertently does his neighbors a favor by scaring them off his property. From there Walt's long held, racist attitudes begin to erode as his neighbors cultural traditions collide with his own values and beliefs.

Gran Torino is marketed as a a somewhat serious film that explores themes of racism, culture, age, family disconnection, morals, youth, values and more. I was expecting it to be very heavy going but was surprised to view a much lighter film that could almost be described as 'social comedy'.

I spent just as much time laughing as I did trying to second guess how various scenes would play out.

It's one of life's mysteries that someone like Clint Eastwood, who started out in spaghetti westerns and cemented his name with Dirty Harry films, can direct such classic films that rely solely on a good story well told. No cutting edge stunts, no flashy special effects, just actors telling a story. It's almost like Clint's on a quest to give depth and emotion to some of the hard cased, stereo typical characters he was known for before he took up directing.

Gran Torino is filled with racist slurs, fowl language and some violence but it is all necessary to understand the kind of man Walt is. At the start of the film you're supposed to think he really is just a Grumpy old bastard who hates everything but by the end you understand that there's a lot more to Walt than first impressions would lead you to believe.

I saw this movie with a fairly full house in the cinema and most people laughed in all the same places I did. If you don't take it too seriously you should enjoy it and you'll be surprised to learn that you actually care about Walt by the end. It is thought provoking in it's themes but I wouldn't analyze it too deeply. Take it for what it is, a good story well told.

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