Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Clint Eastwood|
|Produced by||Clint Eastwood
|Music by||Kyle Eastwood
|Editing by||Joel Cox
Gary D. Roach
|Studio||Village Roadshow Pictures
Media Magik Entertainment
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
December 12, 2008
January 9, 2009
|Running time||116 minutes|
|Gross revenue||$326,659,918 |
Gran Torino is a 2008 American drama film directed and produced by Clint Eastwood, who also stars in the film. The film marks Eastwood's return to a lead acting role after four years, his previous leading role having been in Million Dollar Baby, and Eastwood has stated that this is his final film as an actor. The film features a large Hmong American cast, as well as Eastwood's younger son, Scott Eastwood, playing "Trey". Eastwood's oldest son, Kyle Eastwood, provided the score. The film opened to theaters in a limited release in North America on December 12, 2008, and later to a worldwide release on January 9, 2009.
The story follows Walt Kowalski, a recently widowed Korean War veteran who is alienated from his family and angry at the world. Walt's young Hmong neighbor, Thao, tries to steal Walt's prized 1972 Ford Gran Torino on a dare by his cousin for initiation into a gang. Walt develops a relationship with the boy and his family.
Gran Torino was a critical and commercial success, grossing over $326 million worldwide.
Walt Kowalski, a retired Polish American Ford factory worker and Korean War veteran, has recently been widowed, which is made further difficult by the generational clash between him and his sons' families. His neighborhood near Detroit, formerly populated by working-class white families, is now dominated by poor Asian immigrants; gang violence is commonplace.
A Hmong family, the Vang Lors, live next door to Walt. Among the family are siblings Sue and Thao. Thao is pressured by his cousin to join a local gang, and agrees to an initiation which requires him to steal Walt's car, a 1972 Ford Gran Torino Sport. Walt sees Thao's flashlight through the garage window and corners him with an M1 Garand rifle; Walt stumbles and falls and Thao flees.
The gang returns and attempts to seize Thao after he rejects them. As the Vang Lors attempt to fend them off, the fight spills onto Walt's lawn. Walt threatens the gang with his rifle, and they retreat. The local families treat Walt as a hero. Later, Walt rescues Sue from an escalating confrontation with three black men. Sue befriends Walt, taking his racist comments in stride, while also explaining some of the history of the Hmong.
To atone for his attempted theft, Thao works for Walt, who has him carry out odd jobs around the neighborhood. Walt helps Thao to find a job. However, Walt is troubled by occasional coughing fits, and soon begins coughing up blood. He goes for a medical checkup and receives results implying that his condition is serious and he is suffering from lung cancer.
Thao is mugged by his cousin's gang on the way home from work. Walt confronts one gang member, beating him up, holding a Colt 45. to his head and demanding that they leave Thao alone or else there will be trouble. The gang retaliates with a drive-by shooting on both Walt's home and the Vang Lor home, and by beating and raping Sue. Infuriated by the attack on Sue, Walt rushes home and proceeds to punch out pieces of furniture in frustration. After calming down, Walt talks with Father Janovich, who informs Walt that the Vang Lors refused to talk to the police. Walt tells Janovich that as long as the gang is around, Thao and Sue "are never going to find peace in this world." Father Janovich admits that, if he were in Thao's situation, he would want vengeance. Walt confides in Father Janovich, telling him that he does not know what he is going to do, but what ever it is, "They won't have a chance."
The next day, Thao visits Walt, demanding Walt's help in seeking vengeance upon the gang. Walt agrees with Thao; however, he states that they must remain calm, that careful planning and caution are needed, no mistakes can be made. He asks Thao to return later in the day. In the meantime, he asks Father Janovich for a confession. Janovich is suspicious, but receives Walt's confession, which consists of only a few petty crimes and injustices. Walt returns home and meets with Thao, giving him his Silver Star. Walt tricks Thao and locks him in the basement. He admits that he does not want Thao to experience the horror of killing, and that he will not be taking Thao with him to the gang's home. He further confesses his most troubling of sins, one he could not confess to Janovich; that he has long harbored guilt for killing a young surrendering soldier during the Korean War. Meanwhile, Janovich alerts the police of Walt's plans to attack the gang, but when nothing happens for hours, they withdraw.
At night, Walt confronts the gang members outside their home, drawing the confrontation out to ensure that he has the attention of neighbors. After receiving the gang's full attention, and making many intimidating remarks and gestures, Walt places a cigarette in his mouth. He asks the gang for a light, and then provocatively reaches into his jacket. The gang members, thinking Walt is going to draw a pistol, gun him down. Walt is killed holding his Zippo lighter in his hand and falls to the ground in a position reminiscent of crucifixion.
Sue releases Thao from Walt's basement, and they arrive at the crime scene, driving Walt's Gran Torino. A police officer informs them that Walt was unarmed, and the gang still shot him. The shooting, seen by the on-looking neighbors, provides enough evidence to arrest the entire gang. The officer tells them the gang will be imprisoned for a long time, no longer able to harass the neighborhood thanks to Walt's sacrifice.
Walt's funeral is attended not only by his family, but also Thao and Sue, along with many of the Hmong community with Father Janovich leading the procession. The scene cuts to the reading of Walt's last will and testament, in which Walt leaves his house to Father Janovich's church, and his Gran Torino to Thao and nothing to his family who had neglected him. As the film ends Thao drives the Gran Torino along Jefferson Avenue with Walt's yellow Labrador, Daisy, in the front passenger seat.
Gran Torino was directed by Clint Eastwood and written by Nick Schenk. It was produced by Village Roadshow Pictures, Media Magik Entertainment and Malpaso Productions for film distributor Warner Bros. Eastwood also produced alongside Malpaso partner Robert Lorenz and Bill Gerber. The original script was inspired by inner-ring suburbs of Minneapolis, Minnesota, but filmmakers chose to produce Gran Torino in the state of Michigan, becoming one of the first films to take advantage of the state's new law that provided lucrative incentive packages to film productions. Filming began in July 2008; locations included Highland Park, Detroit, Center Line, Warren, Royal Oak, and Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan. Hmong crew, production assistants, consultants and extras were used.
In the early 1990s, Schenk became acquainted with the history and culture of the Hmong while working in a factory in Minnesota. He also learned how they had sided with the South Vietnamese forces and its U.S. allies during the Vietnam War, only to wind up in refugee camps, at the mercy of northern Communist forces, when American troops pulled out and the government forces were defeated. Years later, he was deciding how to develop a story involving a widowed Korean War veteran trying to handle the changes in his neighborhood when he decided to place a Hmong family next door and create a culture clash. He and Dave Johannson, Schenk's brother's roommate, created an outline for the story. Some industry insiders told Schenk that he could not produce a film starring elderly characters as it could not be sold. Through a friend Schenk sent the screenplay to Warner Bros. producer Bill Gerber. Eastwood was able to direct and star on the project as filming for The Human Factor, eventually to be retitled Invictus, was delayed to early 2009, leaving sufficient time for filming during the previous summer. Eastwood said that he had a "fun and challenging role, and it's an oddball story."
Warner Bros. suggested that the movie should be shot in Michigan due to tax rebates intended to lure television and film productions to the state, and as a result of this incentive, most of the movie was filmed in Highland Park, Michigan. Producer Robert Lorenz said that while the script was originally set in Minnesota, he chose Michigan as the actual setting as Kowalski is a retired car plant worker. Eastwood wanted Hmong as cast members, so casting director Ellen Chenoweth enlisted Hmong organizations and set up calls in Detroit, Fresno, and St. Paul; Fresno and St. Paul have the two largest Hmong communities in the United States, while Detroit also has an appreciable population of Hmong. Chenoweth recruited Bee Vang in St. Paul and Ahney Her in Detroit.
The film was released on June 9, 2009 in the United States in both standard DVD format and Blu-ray. The disc includes bonus materials and extra features. A featurette is included and a documentary about the correlation of manhood and the automobile. The Blu-ray version presents the film in 2.40:1 ratio format, a digital copy, and the audio in multiple languages.
About 3,751,729 DVD units have been sold as of November 1, 2009 generating $56,684,999 in revenue. This does not include Blu-ray sales.
After seeing the film, The New York Times noted the requiem tone captured by the film, describing it as "a sleek, muscle car of a movie made in the U.S.A., in that industrial graveyard called Detroit". Manohla Dargis of the Times compared Eastwood's presence on film to Dirty Harry and The Man with No Name, stating, "Dirty Harry is back, in a way, in Gran Torino, not as a character but as a ghostly presence. He hovers in the film, in its themes and high-caliber imagery, and of course most obviously in Mr. Eastwood’s face. It is a monumental face now, so puckered and pleated that it no longer looks merely weathered, as it has for decades, but seems closer to petrified wood." The Los Angeles Times also praised Eastwood's performance and credibility as an action hero at the age of 78. Kenneth Turan said of Eastwood's performance, "It is a film that is impossible to imagine without the actor in the title role. The notion of a 78-year-old action hero may sound like a contradiction in terms, but Eastwood brings it off, even if his toughness is as much verbal as physical. Even at 78, Eastwood can make 'Get off my lawn' sound as menacing as 'Make my day,' and when he says 'I blow a hole in your face and sleep like a baby,' he sounds as if he means it." Roger Ebert wrote that the film is "about the belated flowering of a man's better nature. And it's about Americans of different races growing more open to one another in the new century."
However, not everyone enjoyed the film. Mark Harris, columnist for Entertainment Weekly, described it as "fantasy pretending to be social commentary," and accused it of peddling "the delusion that even the bigot next door has something to teach us all about heroism and self-sacrifice," adding "no, he doesn't." Conversely, Nicole Sperling, also of Entertainment Weekly, perceived it in the exact opposite manner. She called it a drama with "the commercial hook of a genre film" and described it further as "a meditation on tolerance wrapped in the disguise of a movie with a gun-toting Clint Eastwood and a cool car."
Rotten Tomatoes reported that 80 percent of critics gave the film positive write-ups, based upon a sample of 207, with an average score of 7.1/10. At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film has received an average score of 72, based on 33 reviews.
Gran Torino was recognized by the American Film Institute as one of the Ten Best Films of 2008. Clint Eastwood's performance has also garnered recognition. He won an award for Best Actor from the National Board of Review, he was nominated for the Broadcast Film Critics Association (Critics' Choice Awards) and by the Chicago Film Critics Association Awards for Best Actor. An original song from the film, "Gran Torino", was nominated for the Golden Globe Awards for Best Original Song. The music is by Clint Eastwood, Jamie Cullum, Kyle Eastwood, and Michael Stevens, with Cullum penning the lyrics. The Art Directors Guild nominated Gran Torino in the contemporary film category.
The film, however, was snubbed by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences at the 81st Academy Awards when it was not nominated for a single Oscar, which led to heated criticism from critics, who felt that the Academy had also deliberately snubbed The Dark Knight, WALL-E, Revolutionary Road and Changeling from the five major categories.
In 2010, the film was named Best Foreign Film at the Cesar Awards in France.