Clint Eastwood directs and makes what might be his last onscreen appearance in “Gran Torino.” And this is a perfect, career-crowning performance for the macho icon.
Eastwood plays Walt Kowalski, a very old-school Korean war veteran who has nothing but contempt for the Asian family next door. But he bonds with them over a gang war and I don’t want to give away any more than that. Let’s just say this is a brilliant and challenging commentary on a lot of earlier Clint Eastwood roles.
For the first half of the film, we get a series of chuckle-inducing, crowd-pleasing "Dirty Harry" moments. Kowalski, whose language often makes him sound like Archie Bunker's favorite cousin, gets the better of the young punks in the neighborhood, including two separate gangs.
But Eastwood is much too savvy and has been through far too much to be interested in serving up a simple dish of revenge fantasies for the junior Kowalski's in the audience. As Walt takes a fatherly interest in the teenagers next door, as the tension with the dominant gang in the neighborhood escalates, it seems as if we're heading for an Old West style confrontation. And then...
Eastwood is at his growling best, and the cast of mostly unknown supporting actors is uniformly excellent. This is one of the best movies of the year. It’ll surprise you and move you.