Related Articles: Movies, All

Gran Torino

Goodbye Clint?

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

If this truly is Clint Eastwood's last acting role, it's fair to say he went out with a bang. While it won't be remembered as his best role, it is a noteworthy one and there's no better way he could have given his final farewell on screen.

Eastwood plays Walt, on old, cranky war vet. He's watched as his once rural, all-American town has crumbled and immigrants have taken over. Walt wants them to leave and they think the same as Walt. Now after his wife's death, he's alone and lost. His sons want him to move into a nursing home so they can get his house and money, but Walt is a tough, old man who refuses help and certainly doesn't appreciate being told that he's past his prime. The only thing that brings him joy is his Gran Torino car.

One night, Walt catches his neighbor Thao trying to steal his prized possession. However the only reason Thao attempts this is because he is being groomed for a gang -- against his will. Thao's family offers him to Walt for a week as repayment and the two grow close, despite Walt's initial hesitance. But through Thao and his sister Sue, Walt is brought into their lives where he learns about their Hmong culture and that like everyone else, they are just struggling to survive.

The script, by newcomer Nick Schenk, does a good job of hovering above social, racial and religious issues without ever getting bogged down by them. The local priest that hounds Walt to go in for a confession due to a promise he made with Walt's wife, is never overly spiritual in a sentimental way and acts as a foil for Walt's character who believes (rightly so) that he is older and wiser. Yet, the two end up learning from each other as their relationship progresses. It's the same with Thao and Sue. Thao, especially, learns to grow up while Walt learns to open himself up to others. It sounds saccharine, which Eastwood is prone to be (Million Dollar Baby, Flags of our Fathers) and parts are, but it's rarely sentimental and is always moving forward.

Still, thereís something fundamentally missing from the film. Sometimes Eastwood overplays Walt and, as I mentioned earlier, it has its moments of sentimentality. While these donít ruin the film, they hold it back from being a home run. In the end Eastwood has crafted a fine film.