Gran Torino – A Movie Review

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Feb 092009
 

Gran Torino Movie PosterWalt Kowalski is a widower, grumpy, tough-minded, borderline-hateful, unhappy old man who can’t get along with either his kids or his neighbors, a Korean War veteran whose prize possession is a 1973 Gran Torino he keeps in cherry condition. When his neighbor Tao, a young Hmong teenager, tries to steal his Gran Torino, Kowalski sets out to reform the youth. Drawn against his will into the life of Tao’s family, Kowalski is soon taking steps to protect them form the gangs that foul their neighborhood.

Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama and Thriller; Running Time: 1 hr. 56 min.; Release Date: December 12th, 2008 (limited), January 16th, 2009 (wide); MPAA Rating: R for language throughout and some violence.

Starring: Cory Hardrict, Bee Vang, Clint Eastwood, Ahney Her, Brian Haley

Directed by: Clint Eastwood

I wanted to see this movie, so we went Saturday night. It wasn’t the worst movie we’ve seen, but I was disappointed. As Ty Burr of the Boston Globe put it, “In the context of Clint Eastwood’s career as a star, an actor, and a filmmaker, “Gran Torino” is an endlessly fascinating movie. If only it were a good one.”

It was kind of an Archie Bunker meets Dirty Harry. I think a valiant attempt was made to tell a real story, and have an impact on how people think about each other. Unfortunately, it missed the mark. Eastwood’s dialogue goes way over the top in attempting to show what a bigot he is. Even when he’s in the home of his new neighbors eating with them, the insults continue to flow non-stop. I respect that the film was unabashed in showing this bigotry, it just went too far in trying to set it up.

If the performances by the supporting cast, mainly the young Asian boy, were stronger this could have made the movie a little better. Vang’s performance really held the movie back, especially during the parts where he and Eastwood share screen time. The young priest in the movie was also pretty weak.

It’s worth seeing, just wait until it is out on video.

Now click on the stars below to let us how you rate the movie, and then use the comments section to tell us what you think.

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American Gangster

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Nov 062007
 

American GangsterNobody used to notice Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington), the quiet driver to one of the inner city’s leading black crime bosses. But when his boss suddenly dies, Frank exploits the opening in the power structure to build his own empire and create his own version of the American Dream. He comes to rule the inner-city drug trade, flooding the streets with a purer product at a better price. Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe) is an outcast cop close enough to the streets to feel a shift of control in the drug underworld. Roberts believes someone is climbing the rungs above the known Mafia families and starts to suspect that a black power player has come from nowhere to dominate the scene.

Director:
Ridley Scott

Genre:
Crime, Drama, Thriller

Cast:
Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Josh Brolin, Lymari Nadal, Ted Levine, Roger Guenveur Smith, John Hawkes, RZA, Yul Vazquez, Malcolm Goodwin, Ruby Dee

Lay and I went to set “We Own the Night” Sunday night at Westshore. We arrived to find the parking lot nearly empty, so we rightly assumed that American Gangster might not be packed. So that’s what we watched.

This movie was long, but Anyone who has every seen a Ridley Scott film will know that his films are long. (Blade Runner, A Good Year, Matchstick Men, Hannibal, Black Hawk Down, Gladiator, all ran for at least two hours or more.) Scott didn’t set out to film another scarface, he set out to tell a story not just about Frank Lucas but rather a tale of corruption and how pervasive it is. There were a number of subplots, but they all played to the overarching theme of the movie. I never felt tired or bored, and the movie moved along at a nice clip.

This was a great biopic of New York gangster Frank Lucas, who I knew nothing about. The film shows Lucas’s relationship with the Italian Mafia perfectly, giving you almost a two way view of the city’s underworld. Denzel Washington excels at the part as Lucas, and Russell Crowe as the cop out to get him is excellent. Crowe does well portraying a cop out to just do his job but can’t do it for the corruption all around him. It’s a film about Lucas’ rise to fame in New York’s Heroin business, and his fall due to both Crowe and police persistence.

With many gangster films, you are always put off by either the acting or the story. But here this is not the case with this story. You have a true story that does not mask Lucas’s violent life but rather portrays it as a life of both murder and violence. It does not glamorize his life, and the story is and characters are well-developed but understated, despite the over-the-top lifestyles that had to be sometimes depicted. Crowe and Washington play well off each other.

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