4:45p - ENDS THURSDAY 3/26
WINNER: 2008 National Board of Review: Best Actor
WINNER: 2008 National Board of Review: Best Screenplay
GRAN TORINO stars Eastwood as an American icon once again -- this time as a cantankerous, racist, beer-chugging retired Detroit autoworker who keeps his shotgun ready to lock and load. Dirty Harry on a pension, we're thinking, until we realize that only the autoworker retired; Dirty Harry is still on the job. Eastwood plays the character as a man bursting with energy, most of which he uses to hold himself in. Each word, each scowl, seems to have broken loose from a deep place.
Walt Kowalski is not so much a racist as a security guard, protecting his own security. He sits on his porch defending the theory that your right to walk through this world ends when your toe touches his lawn. Walt's wife has just died (I would have loved to meet her,) and his sons have learned once again that the old bastard wants them to stay the hell out of his business. In his eyes, they're overweight meddlers working at meaningless jobs, and his granddaughter is a self-centered greed machine.
Walt sits on his porch all day long, when he's not doing house repairs or working on his prized 1972 Gran Torino, a car he helped assemble on the Ford assembly line. He sees a lot. He sees a carload of Hmong gangstas trying to enlist the quiet, studious Thao (his neighbor) into their thuggery. When they threaten Thao to make him try to steal the Gran Torino, Walt catches him red-handed and would just as soon shoot him as not. Then Thao's sister Sue (Ahney Her, likable and sensible) comes over to apologize for her family and offer Thao's services for odd jobs, Walt accepts only reluctantly. When Sue is threatened by some black bullies, Walt's eyes narrow and he growls and gets involved because it is his nature.
GRAN TORINO is about two things, I believe. It's about the belated flowering of a man's better nature. And it's about Americans of different races growing more open to one another in the new century. This doesn't involve some kind of grand transformation. It involves starting to see the "gooks" next door as people you love. And it helps if you live in the kind of neighborhood where they are next door. rogerebert