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Gran Torino (2008) Review

Mr. America himself directs us through another piece of film where an angry, old racist (played by Eastwood, obviously) comes to his senses and helps those less fortunate than him. Only the difference between this and every other red, white and blue, Eastwood directed film I’ve seen is that Gran Torino is actually pretty good. An actor I’ve always wanted to invest more time in, Eastwood pushes his way through a film that places him on the opposing end of just about everyone around him. I’ve had Gran Torino recommended to me at numerous times in my life, and its finally time to get round to it and hunker down into what should be a fairly competent drama.

Eastwood’s anger throughout the film is consistent, and when we’re finally given the salvation necessary to complete his character arc, it feels somewhat underwhelming. There’s no denying the emotional weight of the performance, but it does feel rather predictable as it trundles along on its way. Hitting all the expected marks of a drama, it certainly doesn’t feel like anything I’ve seen before given the subject matter; however, it falls into the standard dramatic cliché all too frequently. It’s at least well performed, but you should expect nothing less from Eastwood.

A film of acceptance, misrepresented as one of American ideals. Acceptance that a new wave was entering into the culture of the world at the time, and the importance of making peace with such a world before it’s too late. If anything, we go through the process of Eastwood coming to terms with his own age. He puts himself through some fairly unconvincing scenes of brief action, the glimmers of Dirty Harry shining through, but without the immediately harsh effect they used to present. He seems fragile, distant even, as he directs himself through a performance that suits his acting abilities but also suffers at the hands of a man trying to keep himself in the loop of action-oriented filmmaking.

An emotionally provocative film, one that does feel rather smug in its appropriation and tone, but at the same time it provides us with a credibly enjoyable Eastwood performance and proof that there’s more than violence to his well-versed acting background. At times tragic for all the wrong reasons, and with a handful of subplots that are completely submerged and forgotten about by the time Gran Torino wraps itself up, it’s a film that certainly lacks the conjecture to provide anything completely solid or satisfying, but it’s certainly great to see Eastwood give a fine performance with relative ease.

Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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