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The Warsaw Voice » Culture » April 8, 2009
Film review
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Gran Torino
April 8, 2009 By Witold Żygulski   
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He may be pushing 80, but Clint Eastwood is still in very good shape-so good that he can even afford a little self-mockery. In Gran Torino, Eastwood says goodbye to his image as a tough guy, forever embodied in inspector Harry Callaghan, better known as Dirty Harry.

Eastwood's latest on-screen persona is a senior citizen named Walt Kowalski, a name that sounds all too familiar to Polish viewers. We meet him as an anti-social loner who even detests his own family-though you can hardly blame him for that. One reason why he can't stand his son is quasi-patriotic, because while Walt spent half his life in a Ford factory, the son sells Japanese cars. When Walt buries his wife, probably the only person he ever loved, the children suggest he move to an old persons' home, but he refuses point blank, planning to spend his remaining days where he has lived all his life.

In his spare time, which means all the time, Kowalski drinks beer, mows the lawn in front of his neatly kept house, and polishes a vintage Gran Torino car from 1972. He bitches a lot too, complaining about everything and everybody. When a large Asian family moves in next door, Walt is clearly not happy. Other than his standard distaste for any kind of "strangers," which he flaunts whenever he can, the Asian neighbors remind Walt of the Korean war which he went to as a young man and has unpleasant memories of.

The lives of the Asian family and Kowalski are intertwined after the boy next door, Thao, gets a task from a local gang that, if completed, would make him a fully fledged gang member. The job is to steal Walt's precious Gran Torino, no less. Caught red-handed by Walt, Thao gets to make up for his wrongdoing with hard work. Whether he likes it or not, Walt gets to take care of Thao's re-education as well as protect him from the gang. That entails dusting off Walt's old military rifle that still remembers the war in Korea. But things are not quite like in the Dirty Harry movies...

Eastwood, who has taken comfortably to the director's chair in recent years, said Gran Torino would be his final film as an actor. Still, many movie aficionados remember him say similar things about several other movies in the past and then he returned in front of the camera anyway. Whether his last role or not, Eastwood is gripping as he portrays the transformation of an old, pessimistic veteran who, thanks to hanging around with Asian youths, musters the will to make a difference, if only for a moment. Eastwood is on screen for almost the whole of the two-hour movie. He is as compelling as in his best roles from decades ago.
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