Staff Editorials

Gran Torino Blu-ray review
Posted: 23.07.2009 11:04 by Richard Walker Comments: 8
It was surprising to see Gran Torino passed over come Oscar time this year. The entire thing seemed like a shoo-in to sweep awards season, especially given that Clint Eastwood delivered yet another stellar performance on both sides of the camera. And if this is - as widely rumoured - Clint’s final bow as an actor, you’d have thought the Academy would have seen the sense to pay the icon his dues for this movie rather than Changeling, his other directorial effort.

In Gran Torino, Eastwood plays yet another grizzled leading man role as the miserly Walt Kowalski, a bigoted old geezer from an entirely different era. A Korean War veteran who’s recently lost his wife and is visited only by his spoiled offspring and their rotten, ungrateful kids, Kowalski is stuck in his ways and resistant to change. So when a Hmong family moves in next door, his racist streak manifests itself as he spouts slurring racial epithets such as ‘gook’ and ‘slope’.

What follows is a string of awkward visits from the father of the local Catholic Church who vainly attempts to get Kowalski to confront his grief and talk through his feelings. Trouble is he’s a stubborn old sod, who’d rather squint and growl than go to church. And when his new neighbours’ young fatherless son Thao (Bee Vang) breaks into Kowalski’s garage to try and steal his prized 1972 Ford Gran Torino, he seemingly has more important matters to resolve.

It conspires that Thao is bullied and cajoled by a group of Asian gangbangers into thieving the titular car as an act of gang initiation, which is why Kowalski keeps his trigger finger subdued when he grabs his old rifle to scare off the wayward kid. Instead, he puts Thao to work to repay the debt for his misguided offense and inevitably Kowalski begins to forge an uneasy, reluctant paternal bond.

Gradually Kowalski becomes increasingly detached from his own children and embraces the family next door when he develops a taste for their exotic food and warm hospitality. The route the narrative takes from here is fairly predictable stuff as Eastwood’s craggy tough guy embarks on a bout of vigilantism to protect Thao and his family from the threat of reprisal from the gang members.

It’s the presence of Clint and his fantastically cynical and acerbic performance that lends the movie extra weight, his Kowalski a distillation of every iconic role he’s ever embodied throughout his extensive career. This is Dirty Harry living out his twilight years; less willing to resort to letting his .44 Magnum do the talking for him and more likely to yell, “Get off my lawn!” than “Do you feel lucky, punk?”

Although Gran Torino is a good, honest two hours of entertainment, this arguably ranks below many of Eastwood’s previous Oscar triumphs like Unforgiven or Mystic River. It’s an engaging movie with a powerful emotional centre, but there are some dialogue exchanges that fall flat and moments where you wish Kowalski would channel The Man With No Name or William Munny to get things done. There’s a dose of mawkish sentimentality running throughout the movie too, which succeeds in complementing the formulaic nature of the film and the unavoidable poignant climax.

Still, if this does prove to be Eastwood’s final role in front of the camera, then the man can hold his head up high and contemplate a career of unmatched brilliance. Clint Eastwood is truly a one-off and just like a Gran Torino, they really don’t make them like this anymore.

Gran Torino revs its engine on Blu-ray with a decent 1080p, 2.40:1 framed transfer. There’s a wonderfully warm sepia tone to the movie that looks great in High Definition, with the colour palette duly muted by the vintage glow. The greens of Kowalski’s leafy suburban neighbourhood and his treasured lawn look vibrant and natural, as do flesh tones and blacks within the framework of the film’s intended visual style. Textures are rich and detailed too, picking out every line on Clint’s glowering visage.

The audio track wheel spins with a screech onto Blu-ray with a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack. In keeping with the movie’s tone, the audio is suitably hushed but no less clear and crisp for it. Dialogue is well pronounced and always audible and the atmospheric sound isolates individual effects to create a nice sense of place. The echoes and organ music of the church for instance, embody the cavernous space perfectly.

Where the standard of the audio and visual transfer is generally excellent, the extras are a paltry selection of just three lightweight featurettes including a Blu-ray exclusive one entitled ‘The Eastwood Way: Exploring the Actor/Director’s Filmmaking Process Up Close’, which is pretty self-explanatory really. For such a high-profile Blu-ray release, the lack of supplemental material is a massive disappointment.

Gran Torino is a movie that deserved more recognition during awards season. Its themes of sacrifice, atonement and ultimate salvation are anchored by a moving performance from Clint Eastwood, who cuts a tragic figure as the aging Kowalski. Some scenes may be slightly misjudged and awkward, but this is nonetheless a film that will stay with you long after the final credits have rolled. Incidentally, it’s hard not to feel affected by that song over the closing sequence. You’ll know what we mean when you hear it.

* Manning the Wheel featurette
* Gran Torino: More Than a Car featurette
* Blu-ray exclusive The Eastwood Way featurette
* BD-Live access
* Digital Copy

Film: 7/10
Disc: 3/10

Purchase: - £16.78 - £16.99 - £15.95 - £16.99

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By Jake_SI (SI Elite) on Jul 23, 2009
This was a fantastic movie, you just gotta love Clint.
By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Jul 24, 2009
Will be checking it out in the next few days. :)
By Fenske (SI Newbie) on Jul 26, 2009
Would be cool if like the Dirty Hary movies were somewhere in his house in this movie.. hehe
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Jul 28, 2009
Actually after Clint's previous works, I actually thought this one was a let-down. Predictable, simple and too "Feel-good", it is not what I'd come to expect from the man in the black hat. Better luck next time, Clunk.
By Revan (SI Elite) on Jul 29, 2009
Clint kind of reminded me of an old Solid Snake in this movie. The ending was sort of crap, but still a good movie in my opinion.
By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Jul 30, 2009
Hmm... Saw it today. Not bad for a 70 year old man. :)
By stuntkid (SI Elite) on Aug 09, 2009
Saw this a few days ago. I must say that I really enjoyed it.
By Jamie5555 (SI Newbie) on Sep 06, 2009
I saw his film a few weeks ago and really really enjoyed it and i thought the ending was really good actually:P