Who’s better than Clint Eastwood? I’ve said it before, but really, who has a better success story than he does? He said Unforgiven was going to be the last time he directed himself, a retirement he quickly gave up. He said the same thing four years ago with Million Dollar Baby and now again with Gran Torino. I don’t mind when Eastwood breaks his promises, as long as he keeps delivering such impeccable work.
Gran Tornio is unlike anything he’s ever done. Eastwood plays Walt Kowalski, a bigoted Korean War vet who meanders through life by staying angry and drunk. His once pleasant neighborhood in Detroit has fallen victim to gangs and violence.
Walt isn’t a guy you really like. He’s mean to just about everyone, doesn’t speak a sentence without barking a racial slur and has nothing but contempt for an honest, young priest. When he catches his neighbor, a Hmong teenager, trying to steal his prized Gran Tornio, Walt wants blood.
Soon he forges a friendship with the kid, while accidently becoming a protector of the neighborhood from a tough gang. Imagine the rest, because that’s all I’m going to give you. The joy of an Eastwood film is discovering the subtle surprises that he has in store for us.
The action scenes in the film come seldom yet quick. Most of Eastwood’s films have moments of extreme violence, but he is one of the few filmmakers who pulls it off tastefully. He doesn’t insult his audience by showing gratuitous acts of torture, instead he trust us enough to elaborate ourselves.
Walt is a bold move for Eastwood. He’s like Dirty Harry meets the Man With No Name, meets Frankie Dunn from Million Dollar Baby. A real contemporary badass that we aren’t too sure we like. As Walt, Eastwood delivers the best acting of his career. I’m a great admirer of his work and I can honestly say that I have not seen better. The film as a whole, while great, isn’t as good as Mystic River or Million Dollar Baby, but it does hold its own.
Listen to the first few bars of the title song over the end credits. Yup, that’s the old man alright, still going strong at 78 years old. If we don’t see Eastwood again on screen, then that’s fine by me, because damn, what a hell of a way to go. A