Cast: Clint Eastwood, Bee Vang
Direction: Clint Eastwood
No pride, no prejudice. Clint Eastwood’s ongoing plea for a violence-free America continues with the 30th film directed by the actor-producer-auteur.
Ironically, Eastwood was once criticised vehemently for being the trigger-happy gringo of Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns and for taking the law into his own hands in the Dirty Harry series.
It’s post-Unforgiven (1992) that he has emerged as a humanist, narrating stories which are heartfelt as well as critical of a nation that still has to adjust to its multi-ethnic communities.
At the heart of Gran Torino is the eponymous Ford, a 1970s-era car which a lonely curmudgeon (Eastwood) seems to value much more than his family. A recent widower, he’s a grouch whose temper is as fiery as his squelching one-liners.
Enter a Vietnamese family next door. Suspicious of them at the outset, the cantankerous old man actually turns out to be their self-appointed godfather, preventing the neighbourhood’s street gangsters from harming the family.
The old man’s warm relationship with the Vietnamese teenager (Vang) is palpable. And although there are spurts of gross melodrama, these are counter-pointed by the director’s trademark wry sense of humour-evidenced in his bantering sessions with an Italian-American barber and a confession-seeking priest.
Without ever being gimmicky, Eastwood focuses on his little big people located in a derelict quarter of Detroit. The tempo is leisurely, as in his best work (Mystic River, to name a random example) and there isn’t a vestige of sham glamour in any frame of this two-hour film.
Viva Eastwood, then. But do be warned. Gran Torino isn’t meant for those seeking a fast, thrill ride.