Saturday, 26 April 2014

"Gran Torino" on BLU RAY – A Review Of The 2008 Clint Eastwood Film

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"…I Confess That I Have No Desire To Confess…" – Gran Torino on BLU RAY

Walt Kowalski is old school. A Korean War veteran and lifelong Ford autoworker ("Would it kill you to buy American...") - he snarls at his scantily dressed teenage granddaughter who disrespectfully texts someone while attending his wife's funeral. He spits on his next door neighbour's front lawn because it's not as spic and span as his own - and looks close to punching out the well-meaning but life-naïve local young priest Father Janovich who just wants to 'help' after his wife's passing (dialogue above). And as the American flag flies over his home - Walt and his dog Daisy sit on the porch not suffering anyone let alone fools gladly - while drinking brews and cursing the rubbish printed in the Astrology section.

His middle-aged sons Mitch and Steve live as far away from him as possible (Michigan mostly) and despair of his grouchy growling nature - permanently frothing at the state of the America he fought for in 1952's E-Company Platoon. He calls people in the Chinese and Mexican neighbourhood gooks, spicks and swamp rats. When a crowd of well wishers descend on his home for his wife's wake - he snarls "I guess they heard there's gonna be a lot of ham..." Walt Kowalski isn't the nicest person in the world. Yet despite his war ghosts ("The thing that haunts a man the most is the thing he isn't ordered to do...") - Walt has decency in his veins and values in his still-alert mind. And with rifles to fend off intruders - he's kept pristine an American classic car in the garage adjacent to his LA home - a 1972 Gran Torino Sport built by his beloved Ford.

Meanwhile gangs of Hmong and Mexican dudes cruise the streets in cars with guns and semi-automatic rifles looking for trouble or an opportunity to steal something. Walt's immediate neighbours are Hmong - and he snarls at them too. Amongst their large number is older sister and younger brother Sue and Thao. A cousin called Spider in a Hmong Gang has been trying to groom the young Thao - until one day Walt intervenes with his rifle and saves the young boy. To his cringing horror the gook neighbours he was offing all those decades back begin to shower him and his porch with gifts of gratitude. But again - despite their best efforts - he tells them to stick it where the sun doesn't shine.

One afternoon as Sue (wonderfully played by Ahney Her) is walking home with a wannabe hoodie white boy called Trey on a sort of date - they are set upon by three youths with bad intent towards her. Walt is passing in his truck - sorts them out with a handgun he will clearly use - and gets talking to Sue as they drive back about her 'hill people' and especially her obstinate but dim younger brother Thao (great work from Bee Vang). Slowly he learns of her Asian family's origins (escaping murdering Communists in Vietnam) and likes her spunk. A fledgling relationship begins. A relationship that will see him defend and honour what he once body-bagged with such ease...

Directed by Clint Eastwood and written by Nick Schenk and Dave Johannson - "Gran Torino" features a cast of unknowns and tackles subjects rarely seen on Hollywood billboards. It's masterful stuff with Eastwood as Director and Lead Actor firing on all sixes - getting his teeth into important and relevant stuff. It's also ballsy in its portrayals - and of course what makes his Walt so likeable is that he does speak his mind - does have his own marbles - even if they aren't the most politically correct colours...

The BLU RAY picture quality is immaculate throughout - beautifully film. It's defaulted to 2.40:1 Aspect Ratio so there are bars top and bottom - but even stretched to Full Aspect - it looks properly fabulous.

Audio is Dolby TrueHD, English 5.1 Dolby Digital, English 5.1, French 5.1, German 5.1, Italian 5.1, Castellan Spanish 5.1 and English 2.0 Audio Descriptive Service. Subtitles are English, Complex Chinese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Korean, Norwegian, Castellan Spanish and Swedish (Movie and Bonus Material). Extras include "Manning The Wheel: The Meaning Of Manhood As Reflected In American Car Culture", "Gran Torino: More Than A Car" and exclusive to BLU RAY "The Eastwood Way - Exploring The Actor/Director's Filmmaking Process Up Close".

Racism is a hard one to get right on film - "Crash" and "The Help" are stunning also (see reviews) - and Eastwood's contribution is up there with those masterpieces.

Driving home as he warms to his Native American neighbour - Walt says to Sue with a smile -  "You know what're all right..."

So is "Gran Torino"...

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