After Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino, released in 2008, is directed by Clint Eastwood, who also plays the main character.
Walt Kowalski is a grumpy widower who still holds a grudge against Asian people after his service during the Korean war. He possesses a 1972 Gran Torino he keeps in perfect condition. When a Hmong family (Asian immigrants from Vietnam, Thailand and Laos) moves next to him in a gang-ridden neighborhood, his original antagonistic feelings change into something else as he takes young Thao, who had to try and steal the Gran Torino as his gang initiation, under his wing.
So I’ll say this: definitely not a masterpiece. The story is predictable, and the acting has his ups and downs. But it’s not bad! The evolution of Eastwood’s character, although predictable, leaves the viewer quite emotional, and as gang war rages, the viewer if left to feel sorry for the poor Hmong family that has to put up with the inevitable pressures that come with rejecting life within the gang. As the movie progresses, it becomes quite apparent that Walt is the only solution. At the same time, he is so old and in some scenes physically weak we are left rooting for him, all feelings of initial dislike gone. The ending is a tad cliché, but nevertheless the perfect ending for the film, and for Eastwood’s career, as I understand this was his last movie in an acting role. He is weak and old, yet on screen this disappears and he shows up as strong and forceful. Even though I have to say I was almost shocked at how much he’s aged.
Duke: What you lookin' at old man?
Walt : Ever notice how you come across somebody once in a while you shouldn't have fucked with? That's me.
Walt has not changed since war, yet in a short timeframe, with the contacts of Thao and his sister Sue, he actually becomes a decent human being. There’s the inevitable question of chicken and egg: Walt’s family is obnoxious, selfish and greedy – but then again Walt is far from being the perfect dad: which came first? Bad children made the father bitter and grumpy? Or tough father made children disloyal and self-centered? But anyway, I saw in some comments people doubted the interest of starting the movie with the funeral, since after that there’s only one mention of Walt’s late wife. Well, I thought about it, and I am honestly convinced this is to set up Walt’s family as unpleasant: it’s actually quite amusing, not only are the brothers and their wives bland, unoriginal and greddy, but their children, OMG, are just spoilt brats. Sufficient to say I was happy not to see them too much in the film, and quite happy with the conclusion.
It has funny moments, too. The scenes with Thao are for some of them priceless, especially this one:
Thao: Excuse me Sir, I need a haircut if you ain't too busy you old Italian son of a bitch prick barber. Boy, does my ass hurt from all of the guys at my construction job.
Scenes with the priest are also sometimes funny and, to me, serve as a barometer for measuring Walt’s evolution throughout the movie.
No, not a masterpiece. But it will pull you in and keep you interested and entertained all through the end.