Editors' pick

Gran Torino

MPAA rating: R
Genre: Drama
A strong-willed Korean War veteran confronts his biases when he begins dealing with his immigrant neighbors.
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Christopher Carley, Bee Vang, Ahney Her
Director: Clint Eastwood
Running time: 1:57
Release: Opened Dec 19, 2008
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Editorial Review

Movie fans have their very own Scrooge this Christmas, and wouldn't you know it's Dirty Harry?

In "Gran Torino," Clint Eastwood delivers a breathtaking performance in a by turns appalling and hilarious role that recalls great ghosts of Eastwood vigilante thrillers past. Playing Korean War vet Walt Kowalski, Eastwood spits, swears and seethes as a man who watches the world change from the front stoop of his Detroit house. Surrounded by Hmong immigrants he persists in calling "slants," "slopes" and "gooks," at least Walt is an equal-opportunity bomb-thrower. He has an epithet for everyone, even growling and glaring at his grandchildren. (He does love his dog, and the restored 1972 Gran Torino in his driveway.)

If it weren't for Eastwood's amusingly self-conscious performance, Walt would be insufferable, but "Gran Torino" is full of surprises, especially when the old coot befriends a Hmong family next door. Eastwood also directed this often-hilarious drama, so you can bet it has its share of sentimental movie moments. But they pale in comparison to what Eastwood gets right, including Walt's bleakly dignified working-class Detroit neighborhood and his sternum-high pants. If you can survive the F-bombs and the near-constant ethnic invective, "Gran Torino" is not to be missed, if only as the gutsy, thoroughly unexpected valedictory of an icon fully willing to spend every bit of his considerable capital.

-- Ann Hornaday (Dec. 25, 2008)

Contains pervasive profanity and violence.