Clint Eastwood, who plays a Korean War veteran, embodies a man caught between future and past, war and acceptance and sudden loss in a superbly developed movie, “Gran Torino.”
The lifestyles of a stubborn old man and a hopeful young boy are intertwined in an epic movie that moves viewers between extremes. Comedic bantering intermixed with drama and action makes this movie one of the most praised of the year.
When Kowalski’s beloved wife dies, he is faced with the shock of living alone. Kowalski’s children have moved away and are not involved in his life. His religious views are challenged when his wife makes the local priest, Father Janovich (Christopher Carley), promise to make Kowalski go to confession.
The continuing confrontation between the priest and Kowalski gives insight into the issues and events Kowalski was exposed to during his life. Also, the juxtaposition of church and Kowalski’s racist views makes them all the more obvious and obtrusive.
Kowalski’s stubborn prejudiced views are challenged when his neighbors are no longer all white and the neighborhood is faced with gang trouble. He undertakes the reformation of a Hmong teenager, Thao (Bee Vang), from next door when the youth tries to steal Kowalski’s prized 1972 Gran Torino as a gang initiation.
The first impression of Thao is a quiet, underprivileged teenager who is condemned to a life filled with gangs. He does not have the opportunity or the means to go to college. Kowalski groups all Hmong family members together, believing Thao belongs with the reckless troublemakers.
After the burglary incident, Thao’s mother brings him over as a peace offering, making Thao work for forgiveness. The youth and Kowalski generate a precarious balance, one of mutual dislike, yet friendship.
Thao’s sister is placed in a dangerous situation, and Kowalski decides to help her as well. His portrayal of a stubborn old man is soon undermined as he is drawn into life of Thao’s family.
Eastwood plays his role extremely well. And combined with the seemingly inexperienced acting of Vang, the script is played out very efficiently. The supporting actors add character, bringing the script to life and dramatizing the movie.
The conflict between the Hmong gang and Thao’s family increases, and Kowalski’s influence does as well. As each scene unfolds, viewers move from laughter to suspense to awe.
“Gran Torino” is definitely one of the most ingenious, most well played scripts that has hit screens recently.
Staff writer Kelly Bleck can be reached at email@example.com.