Run time 116 minutes
Clint Eastwood as Walt Kowalski
Bee Vang as Thao Vang Lor, a young Hmong teenager
Ahney Her as Sue Lor, Thao’s older sister
Christopher Carley as Father Janovich
Doua Moua as Fong “Spider”, Thao’s cousin, a Hmong street gang
Director Clint Eastwood
At one level Gran Torino is enjoyable as Dirty Harry at 80 for Clint Eastwood reprises, probably for the last time, the persona which made his career, that of the menacing hard man – has there ever been a more convincing man with a gun on film? He also looks in much better shape than he has for years and 80 years old or not, hes is still weirdly convincing as the tough guy.
But that is not what is at the heart of the film. Eastwood’s character is a Korean War vet Walt Kolowski who has spent his working life in skilled manual labour. He lives in a street in which he is the only white man left, the rest of the street having been colonised by Laotian hill people known as Hmong. Eastwood starts off by displaying what liberal bigots fondly imagine is racism: he is indignant at having his territory invaded. Yet even in these early scene setting moments he is never what would have been called racist even thirty years ago. He is simply bad tempered and unwilling to engage with his unwanted neighbours.
All of this miraculously changes. He is soon seen rejecting his own children whom he views as being symbols of the soft corruption of traditional American values, although there is precious little justification for this view provided in the film . Then he befriends the Laotian family next door and is almost immediately wondering to himself how it is that he feels he has more in common with them than he has with his own family, the pc moral being that the Laotian immigrants have become the inheritors of traditional American values.
The rest of the film builds upon this view as he mentors a young Hmong boy Thao in the ways of the American blue-collar worker including getting him a job. But Thao has a problem: a cousin “Spider” runs a local gang and is constantly badgering Thao to join the gang with a mixture of threats and inducements.
Walt sees that while the gang exists Thao is in danger of being dragged into its sphere. Eventually, in a Christ-like self-sacrificing moment, Walt allows himself to be killed by the gang to save Thao. The gang shoot him dead and are arrested for murder thus removing the threat to Thao’s future. The overall pc moral is that immigrants are good and will continue the American tradition as soft corrupt white America declines. continue the American tradition as soft corrupt white America declines.