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Manning The Wheel: The Meaning Of Manhood As Reflected In American Car Culture
Gran Torino: More Than A Car: Visit Detroit And The Woodward Dream Cruise
Video: Widescreen 2.40:1 Color (Anamorphic)
Audio: English: Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1
French: Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
Run Time: 116 min
Synopsis from DVD Cover:
Korean War vet and retired autoworker Walt Kowalski doesn't much like how his life or his neighborhood has turned out. He especially doesn't like the people next door, Hmong immigrants from Southeast Asia. But events force Walt to defend those neighbors against a local gang that feeds on violence and fear. For the first time since Million Dollar Baby, Clint Eastwood works on both sides of the camera, winning the National Board of Review Award as Best Actor for his bone-deep playing of Kowalski, burnished with experience, grace and gravitas into a "prime vintage Eastwood performance" (Peter Travers, Rolling Stone).
I found myself thinking, during "Gran Torino," that had this film not been directed by and starred in by Clint Eastwood, it would be nothing more than predictable TV movie schlock about a grumpy old man that learns some surprising lessons about himself, with a musical montage or two. The fact is, though, that it DOES have Clint, and while he does make some questionable choices as a director, he's in his element as Walt, and there is no bonding element that will unite people into one opinion like seeing Clint Eastwood on his lawn with a gun pointed straight at the heads of some punky little gang members.
Walt Kowalski (Eastwood) isn't the friendliest guy you're ever going to meet. He's grumpy, surly, and has a racial slur or an insult for pretty much everyone he encounters. He doesn't like his kids, he doesn't respect his priest, and above all, he hates the state of his neighborhood, predominantly populated by Hmong. Then the gangs begin to take over, and Walt pulls out his gun-making him a neighborhood hero to the people he despises. He starts liking them though, which, of course, does not bode well for anyone.
When I first saw this film, it was in a theater with people, and people, I have learned, love their Clint, especially with a gun. It was a lot like watching a sporting event, with cheering and hissing. It's different with a DVD viewing, though - by myself, the movie's inherent flaws were much more discernible. For one, when you're not part of a happy mass of folks who want vengeance, the mediocre plot seems a little thinner, and I started to realize just how far I could see into this movie's future. The really big fault, though, is with Eastwood's young co-star, Bee Vang. As Thao, he handles the everyday stuff just fine, but when he's called on for some very emotional, pivotal scenes of substance, he just can't do it. These are substantial and important scenes, and with Vang, they're hard to watch-in a bad way. This brings to question Eastwood's judgment as a director - surely they could have tried for one more take? But Clint's why we're all here, and he makes angry, grouchy racism seem cool - and if this really is his last hurrah, it's worth seeing.
Unless you're a big car-o-phile, there's not much to see in the sparse selection of Special Features. First is a 9-minute featurette called "Manning the Wheel" that talks a little about the movie, but mainly about cars; then there's the 4-minute "Gran Torino: More than a Car," which focuses more specifically on the title automobile. Again, though, if this is, indeed, Eastwood's last film, a few more Extras would have been nice-even a standard Making Of thing.
"Gran Torino" isn't that great of a film, but it does have two things that make it worth watching and pretty enjoyable - one, it's got Eastwood at his mean guy best, and two, it's the kind of movie you can cheer at when the bad guys get it. Sometimes we all need that.