If this is, as it's rumoured to be, Clint Eastwood's last acting role (he'll continue directing) there's one thing for certain - we're going to miss that voice. Clint growls and spits his way through Gran Torino, an often heavy-handed story about redemption and righting society's wrongs but also a story that's so easy to get on board with. Clint plays racist Walt Kowalski, a gruff Korean War veteran who, as irony would have it, lives in an Asian neighbourhood with only his prized possession for company - a mint condition 1972 Gran Torino. Despite his often-vocalised prejudices, he takes next-door neighbour Thao (Vang) under his wing and teaches him the honour of a hard day's work, to stick up for himself and what it means to be a man. This is put to the test when Thao's cousin, a member of a local gang, comes to recruit himů Like a David Ayer movie (Training Day, Harsh Times), Gran Torino can be angry and full of despair at society's ills but differs in that it's also sweet and funny when it wants to be too. And where Ayer never offers hope, Gran Torino can't resist hammering home a message of optimism. The movie's success will live and die with Eastwood's character and his performance: Walt Kowalski is a 78-year-old Dirty Harry, his wrath now impotent with age and is reduced to sitting on his front porch sipping beers, shaking his head at the youth of today. Eastwood's take on Walt gives him a rounded persona and there's a certain enjoyment in spending time with him - but only because we know we don't have to live next door. We're with him all the way and can really get behind him when he doesn't take any crap from that gang - Eastwood understands to never underestimate the power of an audience's empathy with a character. Gran Torino is not without its faults, however. David Schnek's script is unable to avoid the "what is it with kids nowadays?" and "he's livin' in the '50s" cliched lines and Eastwood's co-stars can't hold their own when pitted against him; Vang, when called upon to show off what he has in a scene near the close, is left badly wanting. The gang, too, are poorly written, one-dimensional characters we've seen in every gang movie since Boyz In Da Hood. Gran Torino is a decent movie to end a career on but Eastwood, although dependable, has done this before and it's a performance we'd expect from him in a role that doesn't ask him to step outside his comfort zone.
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