So, I’ve done a few current movie reviews, I thought I’d branch out and add my comments on an older film that I find particularly interesting, in one way or another.
So, Clint Eastwood then, he’s a bit of a marmite actor by all accounts, some like him, some don’t, personally I can take or leave him, I like his old ‘Man With No Name’ films, but sometimes find him somewhat samey, I do think however that he is a very talented director as well as actor, so how appropriate that he as behind the camera for this too.
Walt Kowalski (Eastwood) is a recently widowed, ill-tempered Korean War veteran living in a neighbourhood predominantly occupied by members of the Hmong community (an Asian people native to Sothern China, Vietnam and Thailand) a community in turmoil at the hands of a gang of Hmong’s one of whom is the cousin of Walt’s next door neighbours.
After Thao, one of Walt’s next door neighbours is coerced into his cousin’s gang, he’s challenged with stealing Walt’s prized possession, his Gran Torino, Thao is caught in the act by Walt and ran off.
Later on, Walt runs off the gang from his next door neighbours lawn after they attempt to force Tao into their gang, he then learns it was Thao who tried to steal his car, and warns him from ever stepping on his property. However, Walt again becomes entangled with his neighbours lives as he saves Thao’s sister, Sue, from a black gang’s unwanted sexual advances, he finds that he is growing fond of Sue, and eventually takes Thao under his wing, to help him find his way in the world.
Despite this film being nine years old, I’ve chosen to refrain from including spoilers, as it really is a movie that has to be experienced, it’s somewhat of a ‘hidden gem’ even though it was met with a fair amount of acclaim following it’s release it has now been forgotten to history, which is a shame because I think it’s one of Eastwood’s best efforts, as both a director and actor.
His portrayal of Walt is so believable in it’s delivery you feel at times that you are looking into a person’s life, as opposed to a character on screen, he shines most in the screen time shared with Thao or Sue, as seeing the affection his character has for the two youngsters grow is endearing in a character that at the start of the film, showed no endearing qualities to any outsiders. The insults still remain, but as the film goes on, they’re fired behind a wall of affection as opposed to real prejudice.
Another commendable part of the movie is it’s supporting players, specifically Sue and Thao, who are played by Ahney Her and Bee Vang respectively. Both have key parts of the plot to carry and to their credit they carry it incredibly well, the stand-out moments for me are the scenes where Walt takes Thao to the barbers and to a prospective job, trying to educate him on how red-blooded American males communicate.
It’s also a movie well realised in it’s direction, Eastwood has a penchant for a dark, gritty, realistic directing style that is recognisable here, he creates a downtrodden atmosphere, not only in the Hmong characters but in Walt himself as he adjusts to life without his wife.
There’s also a great symmetry between the first speech of the movie, given by a priest at Walt’s wife’s funeral and the movies conclusion, one which I’ll leave you all to discover yourself as I highly recommend this film, especially if you’re only aware of Eastwood as the Western actor with squinty eyes, you’ll come out of this with a whole new perception of him as both an actor and director, and a feeling of bittersweet triumph as the film reaches it’s conclusion, it’s one that I think is essential viewing, it would be a real shame for this movie to be forgotten.