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Gran Torino


Stars: Clint Eastwood, Bee Vang, Christopher Carley, Ahney Her, Geraldine Hughes, John Carroll Lynch, Dreama Walker, Brian Haley, Brian Howe

Director: Clint Eastwood

Yet another film from prolific movie-maker Eastwood, although possibly his last as an actor. To that end, it has some themes in common with John Wayne's last, The Shootist, perhaps appropriate for two Western icons.

Cantankerous is the word for Walt Kowalski (Eastwood), a Korean War veteran with a freshly-buried wife who still flies the American flag outside his home, in a neighbourhood that has been taken over by Hmong immigrants, originally from Laos.

Walt cares as little for his two sons and their wives as they do for him and, as a dedicated racist who keeps himself to himself, calls people swamp rats, gooks and dagoes.

He also coughs up blood. Walt is not a well man. He's strong enough, though, to spring to the defence of his beloved Gran Torino car when Thao (Bee Vang), the 16-year-old from next door, tries to steal it as an initiation test forced on him by the local gangbangers. Oddly, Thao's family insist on his doing penance and the reclusive Kowalski, whose outtakes of breath and subsequent snarls indicate his dislike of all things Far Eastern, becomes involved in their lives.

Meanwhile, the local priest (Carley) tries in vain to get Walt to attend confession according to his wife's last wish. And the gangbangers continue to loom dangerously in the background.

As a portrait of the Eastwood macho character grown old, this should delight his fans, but the rest of the acting, Carley excepted, isn't terribly convincing, and the film certainly takes its time before coming to the boil, with some of its sequences just borderline interesting. And, if you can't see the last reel's various developments coming, you haven't seen very many movies.

David Quinlan

USA 2008. UK Distributor: Warner Brothers. Technicolor.
116 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 14 Feb 2009