“Gran Torino,” directed by Clint Eastwood, is a very moving and captivating drama. It’s a simple story about tolerance and cultural differences, but also one of hope, self-sacrifice, and unlikely friendships. A former auto worker at Ford, Walt Kowalski has just had to put his longtime wife to rest when the story opens. From his scowl, it looks as if he would like to join her. Instead he sits on his front porch chugging can after can of cheap beer in the company of his yellow Labrador, Daisy, while watching the world at a safe distance with a squint and a stream of bitter commentary. The remaining members of his family, including two sons with big houses, big cars, big waistlines, have no choice but to let him stew alone.
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“Gran Torino” tackles racism head on. Although the main character Walt Kowalski, played by Clint Eastwood, is prejudiced against almost everyone, the film focuses on an Asian neighborhood, uncovering racism and violence. The neighborhood has gone down hill since it has become immigrant-dominated. The house next door is now owned by a Hmong family, a widespread South-east Asian minority, and Walt does not trouble to distinguish them from the Koreans he fought in the 1950s. Throughout the film, we learn Walt had to kill many Koreans as part as his duty as a soldier during that period of time. The film takes a twist when the bitter old war veteran’s life takes an unexpected turn after Thao, a shy, teenage boy who lives next door to Walt is bullied by his thuggish cousin and no-good buddies into joining their gang. His initiation test is to bust into Walt’s garage and steal his treasured 1972 Gran Torino. Sure enough, Thao does as the others ask. While trying to steal the Gran Torino Thao triggers Walt’s halogen security lights and Walt comes out running with an assault rifle. Little do Walt and Thao know, their meeting will change both their lives forever. Thao’s family, led by his mouthy, friendly sister, Sue forces the teenager to do pay his dues from trying to steal Walt’s car by working for Walt, an arrangement that pleases neither the Walt nor the Thao. As the story unfolds and the gang members return and Walt reaches for his gun, the film moves from comedy into drama, and then tragedy into something completely unexpected.
The film takes a hard look at a Hmong community and the gang life within as it twists tough situations until it’s truly exposed, finding a few laughs at the core. “Gran Torino” portrayals real life drama while injecting it with some necessary comedy, which gives it a bit of a balance and keeps viewers even more entertained. The way the comedy weaves effortlessly in and out of the gritty Clint Eastwood film makes it an even better film for most to enjoy.
Clint Eastwood has a great and useful skill of creating terrific drama films with a message, “Gran Torino” is one of those films. Like many of Eastwood’s other films, he plays a role that involves a stereotypical toughness. This film can be seen as a interpretation on many issues encompassing gangs, racism, the disrespect of the youth culture towards their elders, and forgiveness. To me, all of these issues tend to come to mind when reminiscing about the film. I truly believe these are what the film is really about and what it was meant to be about. Throughout the film, it is mind blowing to see many of the characters change for the better throughout the film, especially Walt. This is yet another great film from Clint Eastwood, and it’s a film that addressees important issues that can’t be ignored. Although, some may say that “Gran Torino” may not be the greatest work by Clint Eastwood, I believe the film did a splendid job in terms of race issues. “Gran Torino” is a good example of a film that takes an unbiased look at race issues. This is a well made film, and it’s not just giving you straight advice like most films dealing with similar subject matter.
Melancholy is imprinted in every long shot of Detroit’s devastated, emptied streets and in the faces of those who remain to still walk in them. Made in the 1960s and 1970s, the Gran Torino was never a great symbol of American automotive might, which makes Walt’s love for the car more moving and emotional. It was made by an industry that now barely makes cars, in a city that hardly works, in a country that too often has felt recently as if it can’t do anything right anymore except, every so often, make a movie like this one.
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The drama, “Gran Torino” provides a surprisingly enlightened view at understanding cultural diversity within a rapidly evolving American neighborhood. The movie interjects the need for communication, understanding, and a return to middle class values in a youth oriented culture. “Gran Torino” expresses an issue that has been one of conflict in our society today; racism. Walt Kowalski’s attitude towards minorities seems very prejudice and close-minded. I believe “Gran Torino” is about two things. It is about the late blossoming of a man’s better nature, and it is about Americans of different races growing more open to one another in the new century. I would recommend this movie to anyone who enjoys a drama/action film, and doesn’t mind some foul language to go along with it. I think to some people this film can be a eye and mind opening experience. I believe it is important for people to see both sides of such a controversial issue, and that change is probably necessary in one way or another for understanding, respect, and peace to surface
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