Drive-By Movie Review: Gran Torino

There is nothing more irritating for me than eagerly settling down with the Honeybee to watch a movie we’ve rented that, ten minutes after the opening credits, makes me realize I should have chosen to do something a lot more entertaining with my evening – like bone up on the fundamental theorems of calculus.

I’m sure you’re no different.

That’s why I’m starting a new weekly feature here at Len Penzo dot Com that I hope you will find useful the next time you decide to go rent a movie from Blockbuster or Netflix. Each week the Honeybee and I will give a review of the movie(s) that we rented the previous week.

I’ll call this new feature… The Drive-By Movie Review.

Why “Drive-By” and not “Drive-In?” Because these reviews will be short and to the point – 500 words or less. Besides, most people under 35 have never been to a drive-in movie – but that’s their loss. ;-)

Hopefully, by giving you these reviews, I can save you from a lot of potential DVD rental disappointment in the future.

Here now, is the inaugural edition of the Drive-By Movie Review for the 2008 movie Gran Torino starring Clint Eastwood.

Plot Summary: Disgruntled Korean War vet Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood) sets out to reform his teenage neighbor, Thao (Bee Vang), who tried to steal Kowalski’s prized possession: his 1972 Gran Torino. Drawn against his will into the life of Thao’s family, Kowalski is soon taking steps to protect them from the gangs that infest their neighborhood.

Me: Well, Honeybee, it’s our inaugural edition of the Drive-By Movie Review. Are you nervous?

The Honeybee: Why should I be nervous? This is your blog, isn’t it?

Me: Right. Let’s get started, shall we? In my opinion, Eastwood is among the finest actors and directors in the history of Hollywood. Let’s face it, the guy has been on an incredible roll ever since 2003′s Mystic River. Consider his most recent accomplishments since then: Mystic River (directed), Million Dollar Baby (acted and directed), Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima (directed), The Changeling (directed), and now Gran Torino (acted and directed). Most actors would be lucky to compile across their entire careers the impressive body of work Eastwood has done over the last six years. What did you think of Gran Torino?

The Honeybee: I liked it. We’ve all seen Eastwood as a bad-ass Dirty Harry type many times before. This time, though, he had to play the part as an octogenarian – not an easy thing to do, but he pulled it off.

Me: That’s a good point. The difference between Dirty Harry and Walt Kowalski, is that the viewer gets a very good look into Kowalski’s personal life and as a result, we become emotionally invested in his well-being throughout the movie.

The Honeybee: The best part of the movie is that I had absolutely no idea that it was going to be so darn funny. It was hilarious!

Me: Absolutely! The first three quarters of the movie, where we get to know all about Eastwood’s character and off-beat family is really laugh out loud funny. Eastwood’s old school character is far from politically correct and not shy about using a multitude of, shall I say, colorful terms for Asians, Italians, the Irish, and African Americans, whether they be his friends, neighbors, or complete strangers.

The Honeybee: Yeah, those with a thin skin will definitely want to stay away from this movie.

Me: You’re probably right, Honeybee, but they would be making a big mistake. Although Kowalski’s prejudice against Asians is especially magnified by a horrific experience in the Korean War he is struggling to repress, he soon overcomes that hurdle and takes the fatherless Thao under his wing. Later, when Thao and his sassy sister Sue (smartly played by Ahney Her) are brutally victimized by a local Hmong gang, the movie suddenly tackles deeply serious questions about vengeance and the use of violence.

The Honeybee: I’ll say! The movie took quite a serious turn during the last 30 minutes. The ending completely surprised me.

Me: Me too. The ending caught me completely off-guard.

The Honeybee: Shouldn’t you be close to your 500 word limit?

Me: Yup. Recommendation time… “Buy” or “Sell”, Honeybee?

The Honeybee: Definitely “Buy!”

Me: Same for me. Gran Torino is a definite “Buy!” and I can’t wait to see it again.

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5 comments to Drive-By Movie Review: Gran Torino

  • I really liked Gran Torino.

    The character development and interaction is something you don’t see in modern movies. It’s more like something you would see in a classic movie like High Noon. Most modern movies are just shoot-em-ups with lame plots, which this definitely wasn’t.

    The ending was great. Not only was it unpredictable, but you had to sit back and think about what just happened. At first, I was disappointed with the ending, until the significance had set in.

    Clint Eastwood definitely knows how to make a great movie. I think this is his best movie since Unforgiven.

  • I’m with you, Bret. Outstanding character development in this picture. Unfortunately that requires patience on the part of today’s screenwriters and editors but most of them seem to have lost that trait along the way. (They’ll blame it on audience attention spans, but I beg to differ.)

    I am a huge fan of Clint Eastwood (even his Dirty Harry series) and this is one of my five favorite movies of his along with: Unforgiven; Million Dollar Baby; Dirty Harry; and, The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly.

    In fact, this is probably in my top three. Just don’t make me get any more specific than that – it is too difficult to choose! :-)

  • I too think Eastwood is a fine actor and an even finer director but…… I honestly could not watch Gran Torino past half way. I found the scripting terrible and the use of the silly life/death themes too obvious and overplayed…. I just wasn’t convinced by the stereotyping either.

    I will finish the movie one day when I have nothing better to do just so I can see what happens at the end.

    Still I would watch the next Eastwood movie in a flash.

    • Really? Yes, the stereotyping was over the top. In fact, it was SO over the top I found it to be LOL funny. Things aren’t exactly as they might seem to somebody who abandoned the story halfway through the movie. You’ve GOT to watch the end of the movie, Forest – and then tell me if it changes your opinion.

  • …. Thanks Len, I will one day :) , There have been plenty of movies that picked up in the 2nd half but that particular day I just did not have the patience..

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