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The Essential Guide to Bristol
16 April 2009
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Gran Torino (15)

The ViewBristol Review

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Review byMatthew Turner18/02/2009

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 116 mins

Impressively directed, emotionally engaging drama with a strong script and a terrific performance from Clint Eastwood.

What's it all about?
Clint Eastwood directs and stars as Walt Kowalski, a grizzled Korean War veteran who has just lost his wife and is furious when his family tentatively suggest he might want to move into a retirement home. Fiercely proud, Walt doesn't want to move, despite the fact that he's one of the few white people left in his multi-ethnic Michigan neighbourhood.

However, when Walt catches the teenage son (Bee Vang as Thao) of the Hmong family next door trying to steal his mint condition 1972 Gran Torino car as part of a gang initiation rite, he reluctantly decides to take Thao under his wing, much to the delight of Thao's older sister, Sue (Ahney Her). However, the gang don't take kindly to Walt's intervention and soon target Walt, Thao and Sue for revenge.

The Good
Walt Kowalski is Eastwood's best role in years and he seizes it with both hands, delivering a terrific performance that will stay with you long after the credits roll. It remains to be seen if his growled delivery of "Get off my lawn" will reach the catchphrase heights of "Do ya feel lucky?", but it certainly deserves a shot.

As a director, Eastwood also coaches two great performances from unknowns Bee Vang and particularly Ahney Her, who brings enormous warmth to the film as Sue. In addition, he paints a believable portrait of a multi-ethnic neighbourhood, expertly capturing the simmering tensions between the different groups.

The Great
Eastwood's main strength, both as actor and director, is in ensuring that Walt remains a likeable and sympathetic character, despite his entrenched racism (although he continues using racist language, long past the point where someone would have pulled him up on it). Similarly, Nick Shenk's excellent script manages to be suspenseful, shocking, emotionally engaging, thought-provoking and frequently laugh-out-loud funny throughout.

Worth seeing?
In short, Gran Torino is a superbly made, brilliantly written and ultimately moving drama that's worth seeing for Eastwood's performance alone. Highly recommended.

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Gran Torino (15)
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