Although I would have ended it differently, Clint Eastwood’s “Gran Torino” is his best film in years – and this is from someone who felt underwhelmed by 1992’s “Unforgiven,” which many feel is among Clint’s all-time best movies.
Here, Eastwood plays Walt Kowalski, a bitter ex-Korean War vet and former auto plant worker who’s just lost his wife, and is dismayed by his home being the only one flying the American flag in a neighborhood now filled with Asian families whom Walt refers to with colorfully racist language.
Over a series of incidents, Walt befriends a Hmong girl living beside him named Sue (played very well by Ahney Her), and her brother Tao (Bee Vang) whom the old man nabs trying to steal his vintage ’72 Gran Torino in a gang initiation rite.
But gradually, and in a way that his thankfully un-saccharine, Walt old prejudices drop away as he and Sue/Tao get to know one another, which leads to Kowalski confronting a local gang that’s harassing them all.
What results are played off well, but leaves one wondering if much has really changed after the final frame of “Gran Torino” rolls.
Still, alongside his very well-crafted “Changeling," “Gran Torino” marks a terrific past year for Mr. Eastwood– who at 78, is doing better both creatively and professionally than 99% of the rest of Hollywood’s current crop.
Translation: Clint Eastwood is the coolest guy on Earth. You just can't beat him.
PS: Prior to "Torino," I watched a newly cut "Watchmen" trailer (film allegedly due in March) with lots of new footage. I am cautiously optimistic as to the final product.