Ron Millennor- Executive Sports Producer
Fans of political correctness will not be fans of Clint Eastwood's latest movie, Gran Torino...everybody else, run as fast as you can to your local theater to see what might be Eastwood's last onscreen performance. Eastwood is not only the star, he's also the director, something he's become quite good at...maybe great. He plays Walt Kowalski, a 70 something retired auto worker and recent widower who sees his Detroit neighborhood becoming a little more racially diverse than he would like. The brunt of his angst is targeted at the Hmong's, an Asian family that lives next door to him.
Walt's disdain for the neighborhood grows even stronger when his neighbor's son, Thao, (played by Bee Vang) attempts to steal his prized car, a 1972 Gran Torino, as part of a gang initiation. That event is the catalyst that not only changes Walt, but the entire neighborhood. For failing to steal the car Thao is harassed and brutalized by gang members, including his own cousin. One incident spills onto Walt's property where he growls, "Get off of my lawn" while pointing a rifle in the face of one of the rogues. For his actions Walt is considered a hero by the neighborhood and reluctantly pampered by the Asian women.
For punishment of his attempted crime, Thao's made by his family to work for Walt. Enter Thao's sister Sue (wonderfully played by Ahney Her). Sue is a smart-mouthed brainiac who sees through Walt's tough-guy facade and shrugs off his racists remarks as ignorance, not hatred. And their relationship is sealed when Walt rescues Sue from a group of thugs who are looking for more than a good time. This scene might be the hi-lite of the movie and will certainly draw comparisons to Eastwood's Dirty Harry character.
Sue asks Walt to mentor Thao and be the strong male figure that he's never had. Much to his chagrin, Walt takes on the task and comes to realize that both of these kids care more about him than his own spoiled and distant children. Walt ends up teaching Thao about tools, relationships, life lessons and even gets him a construction job. In the process, Walt learns a lot about himself and the pain he's been carrying since the Korean War. I won't give away the ending other than to say it's a twist on what you would expect. The bottom line is Walt comes to learn that Thao and Sue have a lot guts in an atmosphere of hopelessness and they learn that Walt has a heart of gold.
I'm a big fan of Clint Eastwood and I hope this isn't the last time I see him onscreen. That said, if this is his farewell, wow, what a way to go out. This movie made my day.