Though I wasn't sure what exactly to expect, it turns out that Gran Torino is a superb masterpiece, and in many ways a structurally near-perfect story of pain, death, and ultimate salvation.
Yes, Clint Eastwood stars in this movie, and no, it's not a "shoot-em-up". Eastwood plays a bitter Vietnam vet and an elderly widower with a somewhat paranoid contempt for his neighborhood and it's steadily increasing number of Asian immigrants, as well as the lingering new generation of ignorant teens, many of which constitute the proud gangsters prowling the streets. Eastwood's character's bitterness and disapproval is duly noted by his threatening, animal-like growl, as he glances at his teenage granddaughter and happens to sight her pierced bellybutton.
But make no mistake; Eastwood's contempt for the people around him in no way leads to our contempt of him. In fact, his behavior is perfectly charming because we suspect that deep down he's a real teddy bear. And he is. On a case-by-case basis.
For example: when an Asian kid tries to steal his mint-condition Gran Torino, he's not a teddy bear. Anyhow, turns out that the kid was pressured into it by a local gang, who have been haunting the family next door. As one event after another takes place in this man's life, the situation and the events revolving around it grow increasingly intense; from brutal beatings, to rape, and eventual murder.
Sounds rather dim, doesn't it? But despite these dark undertones Gran Torino is a very bright movie that's a great deal of fun all the way through. Though the majority of the supporting actors are brand new and fairly inexperienced(as Clint Eastwood has pointed out himself) their characters come across magnificently, and with a hint of complementary spontaneity that many have falsely accused of being shallow one-dimensionality. Don't listen to them; if anything, these characters come across as all the more authentic.
Eastwood's role is that of a man who struggles both spiritually and physically most of his life, but in the end finds redemption. This isn't just a good film, or a great one either. It's an absolutely superb and ingeniously crafted masterpiece that I'm really glad I didn't miss.
9 out of 10