Eastwood’s performance shines through in Gran Torino

If Clint Eastwood tells you to get off his lawn, you better do it.

Eastwood channeled his Dirty Harry role in his latest movie, Gran Torino, directed by and starring Clint Eastwood and newcomer Bee Vang. This drama centers on a bitter, aging Korean War vet and his unlikely friendship with his Hmong next door neighbors.

Eastwood stars as Walt Kowalski, an iron-willed, bullheaded bigot who has been marred by his memories of the Korean War.

Kowalski makes it known throughout the film that he is a man who will not change. Throughout the film, Kowalski is shown sitting on his folding lawn chair on his front porch, drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon, his loyal Labrador retriever by his side; American flag waving high. Kowalski resents his Hmong neighbors, saying, “All the Americans have either died or moved out of the neighborhood” often mumbling profanities and racist remarks under his smokey breath.

After the death of his wife, Kowalski has few items left that bring him happiness, except for his 1972 Gran Torino.

When his teenage neighbor, Thoa Vang Lor, tries to steal the car under pressure from the local Hmong gang, Kowalski delivers his own brand
of justice via his M 1 rifle.

When Thoa is physically harassed by the gang for the unraveling of the theft, the brawl spills into Kowalski’s yard, and again Kowalski brings justice with his rifle, telling the gang “I will blow a hole in your face and sleep like a baby.” The gang leaves, warning Kowalski to “watch your back.” Kowalski becomes an unexpected hero by the Hmong community and brother and sister, Thoa and Sue Vang Lor, welcome Kowalski into their home and introduce them to their culture.

To repay Kowalski after trying to steal his car, Thoa begins to do yard work for Kowalski and through this Kowalski becomes a mentor to Thoa and another member of the family to the Vang Lors. Kowalski, the horrors of war still fresh in his mind, must learn to let go of what he did in Korea and the memories he holds, and accept his changing neighborhood and new friends.

Gran Torino is directed and starring Clint Eastwood, who brings years of experience and drive to the film. Every moment captured is a work of art. Eastwood’s weathered and aged face haunts the screen and his deep, dry voice pierces the theater when he tells his reverend that “Thoa and Sue will never find peace in this world until that gang is gone, for good”.  Eastwood embodies wrath and justice, becoming a vigilante explaining, “I know a lot more about dying than about living”.

Gran Torino is destined to become a new classic and the phrase “get off my lawn”, may become just as famous as his “go ahead, make my day” is.

The film weaves together the old and the new; a man’s long held traditions and the family values he has forgotten, memories, experiences and firm beliefs weave into a tapestry of admiration, honor and atonement. Eastwood is known for his dark westerns and he returns to that feel as a vigilante hero role in Gran Torino.

Eastwood delivers a powerful performance as a growling, bitter old man who can make you laugh at his witty banter and then make you cling to your seat and hold your breath when the camera pans his angered face and wild eyes.

Gran Torino is being recognized as one of Eastwood’s best performances and has won an award for Best Actor from the National Board of Review.

The movie is an Oscar and Golden Globe contender. “Gran Torino” is rated R for language and violence, 108 minutes and has a nationwide release.