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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Review By: Dave Warner