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June 11, 2009
Gran Torino Blu-Ray Movie Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
22/1/20094/6/2009RoadshowClint Eastwood
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
VC-1Dolby TrueHD 5.1MClint Eastwood

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Don't mess with Walt (Clint Eastwood).

Ever since I was young (and yes, that is a few years ago now) I have been a fan of Clint Eastwood. His "don't fuck with me" attitude portrayed in so many of his characters gives us such a "comfortable" feel. When you see one of Clint Eastwood's sixty-odd movies, you know what to expect. Indeed we count several of his movies including Any Which Way You Can, Where Eagles Dare, Unforgiven and the Dirty Harry movies among our all time favourites. In a career spanning over 50 years Clint Eastwood is still proving he has the goods, and in Gran Torino he is the lead actor, producer and the director. So let's get onto the details then...

Gran Torino tells the story of disgruntled Korean War vet Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood) who sets out to reform his neighbour, a young Hmong teenager, who tried to steal Kowalski's prized possession: his 1972 Gran Torino. What ensues is an explosive, insightful and often moving look into small town USA and one of Eastwood’s finest performances to date.

For a M rated movie we must warn that there is a fair amount of swearing, and certainly plenty of racial slurs thrown around so be warned. If you can get past that though you will find a very heartwarming and loving tale which shows the collision of two very different cultures, and generations.

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Ahney Her; brilliant as Sue Lor in Gran Torino.
With a superb script, a great set of actors, brilliant editing an pacing there really is little to fault about this movie. It is, however, the smaller scenes and moments that tend to steal the show. Just have a look at the one where, while a Hmong elder 'reads' Wakt, and Walt realises he has more in common with the Hmong people then his own family. Have a look at the scene where Walt realises the perfect punsihment for Thao for trying to steal his car after Thao's family insists he must repay Walt or the brilliant, and very moving, final scenes with Walt. I won't spoil it, but it's wonderful.

Should this be Clint Eastwood's final acting role (he said he was going to move behind the cameras a couple of years before this role came up) then he has gone out on a fine note. It's the subtle things that really stand out; the moment Thao finishes his work for Walt and Walt realises that Thao is deep down a good person, or perhaps the moment when Walt is invited into the Hmong household for some beer and food and ends up having a feast. There are so many fine examples of Clint Eastwood's work in Gran Torino.

As mentioned in the documentaries for this film Clint Eastwood does not employ actors due to their popularity, but rather due to their looks and personalities. Three actors make this movie really stand out. Christopher Carley is superb as the very young Father Janovich, but it's newcomers Bee Vang as Thao Vang Lor and Ahney Her as Sue Lor which really stand out in this movie. Brilliant, and honest, acting from both are the perfect balance to the hardness of Walt. As the movie progresses you become more and more in love with these characters.

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Bee Vang and Clint Eastwood.
Gran Torino is a brilliant movie on so many levels. Dialogue, acting, editing, music and pacing are probably as close to perfect as one would hope. If you can cope with the swearing and racial slurs, then this is an essential viewing experience.

Gran Torino comes to Blu-Ray in the films original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 using the VC-1 codec. I was actually quite shocked at how muted the colours are in this picture.. It seems that much of the colour has been stripped out of the movie. Just have a look at teh scene, in the middle of the day with Thao and his cousins gang on the front lawn between 15:50 and 17:46. It looks so dull. The bitrate constantly hovers above 30Mbps, so it's not an overly compressed image. Perhaps it was filmed that way, if so, that's disappointing. Strangely the interior scenes, including the next one in the bar, look more colourful then the exterior shots.

While we've panned the visual quality of this release we must point out that the increased resolution and bitrate still makes this vastly superior to the DVD release - don't get the idea that this isn't worth a purchase on this superior format - it just isn't up to the eye-popping best that Blu-Ray can offer.

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Walt gets a visit from the Hmong people.
As with the video I found the audio surpriseingly muted on this release. From the very opening credit scene with a piano and guitar playing this movie sounded extremely flat. Indeed I also needed to crank the volume up a bit more then normal to make this an audible experience. Clint Eastwood, playing someone gruff and over the world, sound a bit dull and mumbly - it's put on for the movie as he doesn't sound like this in real life, nor in the extra features.

At times the sub-woofer does come into play - notibly when the Asian gang's car drives along with the thumping music and while the surround sound channels are also used, it is rather sparingly. On an artistic level I actually enjoyed the music throughout the movie - a score which was written by Clint Eastwood's son, Kyle Eastwood along with fellow composer Michael Stevens.

There are several other audio options on this disc including English Dolby Digital 5.1 at 640kbps, English Descriptive Narration (2 Channel, 192kbps), French, German, Italian and Spanish which are all encoded using Dolby Digital 5.1 audio at 640kbps. Brief samples demonstrated a fidelity on par with the English track.

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Yes you're getting older, but still brilliant.
Subtitles are provided in a swag of languages as well including English for the Hearing Impaired, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Chinese, Korean, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish.

Sadly there aren't nearly enough extras present on this disc making me think that Warner Brothers may double dip in future. Still, here we go...

The Eastwood Way (19:17/HD): This featurette, while replaying a bit too much of the movie, looks at Clint Eastwood taking up this rather interesting role as Walt, casting the Hmong people, filming and editing the film.

Manning the Wheel (9:23/HD): A look at the fascination with cars and how most men have a "dream car". Little to do with the film though, which is made even more amusing by the fact that in the extras they state the movie isn't about the car at all!

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Christopher Carley as Father Janovich (left).
Gran Torino: More Then A Car (3:57/HD): A very short look at the Gran Torino at a Woodward Dream Cruise.

Gran Torino is a wonderful movie which takes a most racist, brutal man and shows how, with a bit of effort, people can change, and can be changed. It's a great story. Unfortunately I didn't enjoy the technical presentation on this disc although I am unsure if it's the transfer, or the actual original filming as the cause. The extras are also light on. If you liked this movie, get this disc, it's certainly better then the DVD release, but don't expect too much besides a brilliant movie filled with brilliant acting.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyright© Village Roadshow. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.