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Gran Torino (2008) Print E-mail
Wednesday, 03 June 2009
ImageClint Eastwood is a versatile individual.  He has become known for his acting, producing and directing.  And Eastwood has done it again.  Many critics hail "Gran Torino" as one of his finest.  I found it to be a good film overall, but not a cinematic masterpiece.  The film struggles to get going, but it is well structured beyond the first third.

"Gran Torino" is another film about tolerance in America.  Clint Eastwood stars as Walt Kowalski, an ex-soldier that still lives as if he were at war in Korea.  There isn't a sentence that he speaks that isn't riddled with a derogatory remark about a particular race.  All the slang terms for races other than Caucasian are contained in this film.  It gets rather disconcerting after a while.

Walt has just lost his wife and is such a hard case that he alienates every member of his immediate family.  He refuses to move from his house, which is now located in gangland territory, surrounding by Asians, African Americans and Hispanics.  All of these groups are portrayed exactly as their respective stereotypes command.  All are macho gang members and it is just a bit cliché.

When the Hmongs next door to Walt are caught in an argument with a gang of teenagers, led by their cousin, Walt steps in with a rifle to get them off his lawn.  He didn't do it for any other reason.  However, as honorable people, his next-door neighbors show their gratitude for Walt.  Sue, the Hmong girl next door befriends Walt.  She begins to help Walt ease into the 21st century and except the differences in the world.

The film gets its name from Walt's mint condition 1972 Gran Torino.  When Sue's brother, Thao tries to get initiated by the gang by stealing Walt's Gran Torino, Walt does his best to stop him.  Being late at night, Walt is not able to get a good look at Thao, but is able to scare him off.  Eventually, his family makes him apologize to Walt and work off his debt to the man.  Walt begins to grow fond of Thao and mentors him in the ways of work ethic.  He eventually gets him a job with a local construction crew.

Once all seems well in the world, we return to the problem with the gang.  After being insulted and severely beaten by Walt, the gang performs a drive-by shooting on both his house and his next-door neighbors.  Only minor injuries were sustained, but no one is able to get a hold of Sue.  She finally returns home, beaten half to death and raped (which is pretty sick when you think about it, especially when the gang happens to be her cousins).

Walt knows that neither Thao nor Sue would ever be able to live in peace in this world so long as the gang is around to hinder their progress.  Thao demands revenge and is eager to shoot them all.  However, Walt is not able to let that happen.  After a day of planning what we believe to be a killing spree, he traps Thao in his basement to give him a chance at a successful future.  Walt proceeds to the home of the gang, where they face off – their six machine guns against him standing on the sidewalk with no gun showing. The film has a sad ending, despite the good that Walt did for the community in which he lived.  Walt was pestered after the death of his wife by a local priest.  The two struggled to communicate with each other about life and death.  And aside from intolerance, that is what this film is all about – life and death.

Clint Eastwood has done a marvelous job with the feel of this film.  His directing brings out the best performances from his actors.  Of course, Clint's own acting is a bit old western style, which is what he is best at.  There isn't a lot of production value to this film as it takes place in the ghetto, but Clint still does a good job of framing the scenes.  My only complaints about the film are that the human indecency gets a bit rough and tiresome after a while.  Second, the first third of the movie doesn't seem to go anywhere.  It isn't until Walt starts to associate with Sue and Thao that the film becomes intriguing.  Some may find it tough to sit through the first 30 some odd minutes of the film.

The video is presented in a VC-1 1080p encode with a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  The film's visual style doesn't lend itself for a pretty video transfer.  I was slightly disappointed due to the newness of the film.  However, the image quality still holds up against some of the better transfers out there.  Colors a lacking from the film.  Much of it has to do with the visual style of the film, but beyond that, the colors are still drained.  The sparkling Gran Torino lacked luster.  The black levels are above average providing depth to the image.  Details are not as strong that I would have liked.  Some sequences appear a little on the soft side.  Textures are also adequate but not a sharp as could be.  There appears to be some very minor edge enhancement on the image with some jagged edges appearing here and there.  Film grain is very fine and minimal and shouldn't be an issue.  Overall, the image is appropriate for the style of the film and creates the mood for the film's themes.

Audio is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1.  There isn't much action going on in this soundtrack.  The surrounds are lackluster.  I am not expecting sound effects galore in the rear channels, however I did expect them to be filled with environmental ambience.  Unfortunately, there wasn't much in the way of this in the audio track.  The film is primarily dialogue driven and so it needed a bit more attention.  The dialogue is sometimes tough to discern at the appropriate listening level.  Much of this has to do with the production sound.  Most of the film should have been ADR'd.  There is a scene in which the preacher and Walt are talking on his porch and the dialogue so thin and weak it is unbearable.  There was obviously a lot of wind blowing and so the noise reduction performed on the dialogue destroyed it, making it sound hollow.  The LFE channel is pretty much absent for the entire film.  Even the gunshots do not possess the impact that they should, having been rifles and machine guns.

The Blu-ray comes with only a few featurettes, none of which are that spectacular.  First, there is "Manning the Wheel" which takes a look at automobiles and the America's obsession with them.  "Gran Torino: More Than a Car" is even more about automobiles.  It gets really tiresome.  Lastly, "The Eastwood Way" is an exclusive Blu-ray feature that explores Eastwood filmmaking process.  The disc is also equipped with BD-Live.  I was rather disappointed that there is no audio commentary for this film, but alas this is what we get.  There is also a Digital Copy for your portable media player.

"Gran Torino" is an inspiring story and rather well done.  The video and quality are not the brightest in the bunch, but they are more than adequate.  I recommend getting this disc.

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