"This year, you have to make a choice between two life paths. Second chances comes your way. Extraordinary events culminate in what might seem to be an anticlimax. Your lucky numbers are 84, 23, 11, 78, and 99. What a load of shit."
—Walt Kowalski, reading a newspaper
Gran Torino is a 2008 film, directed by and starring Clint Eastwood, in what was rumoured to be his final onscreen performancenote It wasn't. He plays Walter "Walt" Kowalski, an elderlyretired veteran of The Korean War living in Highland Park, Michigan (a rundown suburb of Detroit), shortly after the death of his wife. He has difficulty relating to his two grown up sons, who are caught up in their own lives, and generally disapproves of the way the world is changing, such as the influx of the Hmong People, immigrants who fled Laos after The Vietnam War. Next door is Thao Vang Lor, a quiet boy who is pressured into joining his cousin Spider's gang. As part of his "initiation", Thao is pressured to steal Walt's prized possession, a 1972 Ford Gran Torino, but fails, and is caught. For dishonoring his family, Thao's mother asks Walt to accept Thao's help in doing chores around his house, which leads to an Odd Friendship. Spider, upset at Thao's rejection of his gang, begins to retaliate against the family, forcing Walt to intervene.Not to be confused with the series Gran Turismo.
This film provides examples of:
Affectionate Gesture to the Head: Walt pats the head of a child in a Hmong household as a gesture of kindness; the family of the child is shocked by this due to their cultural differences.
Amateur Cast: Partially. The Hmong people in the film are played by actors with no previous credits, except for Doua Moua who plays Spider.
Batman Gambit: Walt's plan to deal with Spider's gang is to spook them into using their itchy trigger fingers, gunning him down. He turns up unarmed, and creates a ruckus so people will watch his murder. As a result, Spider's gang is arrested for murdering an unarmed old white war hero.
Berserk Button: It's hard not to press Walt's, there are special mentions. Trying to steal his Gran Torino, trying to get him to move into a retirement home and in the more heartwarming sense; Hurting Thao and Sue.
Bratty Teenage Daughter: Ashley Kowalski, granddaughter in this case. The mere thought of that girl getting Walt's Gran Torino is enough to make any car-lover shudder in horror.
Brick Joke: The gifts Walt receives from the Hmong neighbors after saving Thao. He at first doesn't want them, but then relents as persuading them doesn't work. So he tells them where to place them. Later on when he's had enough and tried to persuade them again, one of them brings him a chicken dumpling meal, which he earlier enjoyed at the BBQ, which he accepts.
Detroit: Technically Highland Park, which is a community entirely surrounded by the Motor City, but is on equally hard times. However unlike virtually everything else filmed there it's not shown as a hell on earth. No attempt is made to hide abandoned structures and lots, but they're in the background. Most of the houses on Walt's block are taken care of and there still seems to be a sense of community. To boot the weather is nice most of the time as opposed to the usual snow and grey skies usually associated with the city.
Dramatic Drop: Walt drops his glass when Sue returns from being gang-raped.
Drink Order: In the bar, Walt orders Pabst and a shot of Jack; the priest tries to order a diet Coke, but Walt makes him order "a drink" instead (he opts for a gin and tonic). Also, Walt is very fond of Pabst Blue Ribbon (not surprising given his generation, class, and location).
Glass Cannon: Tragically Sue. She has a tough attitude and even manages to fight off one of Spider's men trying to kidnap Thao. The gang later beats and rapes her.
Good Shepherd: The rookie priest Father Janovich tries his best to be this, and Walt's wife clearly liked him; Walt's not nearly as impressed, but then, he's a curmudgeon. In the end, Janovich admits to having learned a bit from Walt.
Possibly with Walt, even though he isn't technically a bad guy, given that his last words are ""Hail Mary, full of grace." It's a little ambiguous, though.
His confession suggests that since the war he's been a curmudgeon, but actually a stand up truly good person with the worst sin he's confessing being either kissing a woman at a Christmas party 30 years prior, or not paying tax after selling a personal item. However, his second confession, to Thao in the basement, is what you'd expect from a veteran. It even is done through a grill similar to his first confession.
Insult of Endearment: Walt's incessant use of racial slurs more or less matches this. He and his old friends at the barber shop call each other all kinds of names.
Intergenerational Friendship: Walt is (based on the fact that he's a Korean War vet) in his late seventies or early eighties. He befriends siblings Thao and Sue, who are teenagers. Youa (also a teenager), the siblings' mother (in her thirties or forties), and Father Janovich, who is 27. Before them, he is Vitriolic Best Buds with Martin the barber, who's in his forties.
Jaded Washout: Played With. Walt gets no respect from his family or - at first - the neighbors (and he's not really giving any excuse to doubt him), but he does eventually get respect from the neighbors, and has no trouble with money.
Knight in Sour Armor: Walt again. He's a sour, cynical bastard, but Sue correctly has him pegged as a good man.
Know-Nothing Know-It-All/Heel Realization: Invoked and played straight: Just after Walt accuses Father Janovich of being this, Father Janovitch asks him what Walt knows. Walt realises that he knows plenty about death, but not a lot about life.
Last Disrespects: During the funeral of Walt Kowalski's wife, one of the granddaughters was dressed inappropriately and can be seen fiddling around on her cell phone during the service. Walt's kids start asking Walt if he wants to go to a "nice retirement place" so they could sell the house, and the same disrespectful grandchild starts asking whether she could have some of the furniture and other items in the house.
Lull Destruction: Walt talks to himself a lot. And to his dog. Some of this may help the story, but a lot of it could be communicated without words, or is information the audience already has.
Truth in Television as multiple studies have shown that a person who lives alone or is isolated tend to talk to themselves just to break the silence around them.
Done non-verbally, when Walt learns that his attempt to intimidate the Hmong gang ended up getting Sue beaten and raped. And this is on top of the drive-by at her house. Then he goes home and starts punching up his cabinets—even the glass ones—while verbally berating himself.
Played comically by the priest when Walt finally comes to his church for confession.
Not So Different: Walt basically says this to himself when he's in the bathroom at the neighbor's house. He looks in the mirror says that, "God, I've got more in common with these gooks than I have with my own spoiled-rotten family."
N-Word Privileges: The film examines the rules around this a lot; Walt assumes N-word privileges towards everyone.
Walt never actually uses literal N-word privileges, when confronted by black thugs Eastwood opts for the common 1950's - 1970's racist terms "spook" and "spade" (the use of which terms seem to confuse the young men, or at least leaves them briefly nonplussed...)
One Last Smoke: Once he's decided to face the gangsters, Walt treats himself to a wet shave, a tailor-fitted suit and a cigarette in the bathtub. Averted when he's shot by Spider when he pulls out his lighter.
Papa Wolf: An unusual example in that it doesn't seem to apply to his own family; though, to be fair, they're selfish assholes. However, he blames himself for not getting close to them.
Passed Over Inheritance: His family are shocked to find that in his will Walt leaves them absolutely nothing. His house is donated to the church and much to the horror of his bratty granddaughter whose face lit up at the mention of the car, his Gran Torino goes to Thao.
Rape as Drama: Spider's gang rapes Sue to get back at Thao and Walt. This drives Walt over the edge, and into his sacrifice.
A Real Man Is a Killer: After his sister get raped, Thao eagerly asks Walt to tell him "what it's like to kill a man". Walt's response is a furious rebuttal (see War Is Hell below).
Redemption Equals Death: Walt's speech through the locked door indicating that he feels that he can face the gang because the bad things he has done mean that what he does to them won't make him any dirtier, then defeating them by dying, revealing that he actually meant that the bad things he has done mean that he is ready to die for a good cause. His confession earlier suggests that he actually doesn't need redemption in any eyes but his own.
Also invoked by the fact he reveals to Thao through the locked door, that he shot a young enemy soldier who was trying to surrender to him. His Heroic Sacrifice to save Thao, another young man about the same age, represents his atonement for that old sin.
Walt's confession to Thao mirrors his earlier, somewhat insincere confession to the priest, with the barred and screened basement door replacing the traditional confessional booth screen seen in the earlier scene.
Rice Burner: Walt's will gives the Gran Torino to Thao on the condition that "you don't chop-top the roof like one of those beaners, don't paint any idiotic flames on it like some white trash hillbilly, and don't put a big, gay spoiler on the rear end like you see on all the other zipperheads' cars."
Rule of Three: Several examples include: Walt using a gun as a means to threaten 3 times, Thao and his attempt to steal the Gran Torino is mentioned three times including him actually trying to steal it and Walt visiting the Barber 3 times.
Say Your Prayers: Walt whispers the first words of Hail Mary, when he's about to be killed.
Stay in the Kitchen: The Hmong people traditionally believe that gardening, cooking and cleaning are women's work. Even Spider who's less into the heritage than his cousin's invoke this trope. Walt on the other hand in a surprising turn, doesn't invoke sexism of any kind, even at one point invites Thao, Sue, their mother and Youa to a backyard BBQ where he himself personally cooks.
Surrogate Soliloquy: Walt talks to his dog, when he gets really stressed he talks to himself. While he is talking to his dog about the woman next door, the woman next door is talking to herself saying the exact same things about him in another language.
Tranquil Fury: Walt finally calms down in the moments before his death. "Oh, I am at peace."
Troubled Sympathetic Bigot: Due to a combination of factors, Walt is a Grade A Grumpy Old Man, and holds certain views about his Hmong neighbors that are continually challenged during the course of the movie. In the end he befriends Thao and gives him the prized Gran Torino.
Vitriolic Best Buds: Walt's idea of male friendship is based around this setup, as shown with his barber and the construction foreman, and later Thao. Walt and Sue also have this going: she is the only Hmong he really respects at first because she refuses to take any crap from him
Walt: You want to know what it's like to kill a man? Well it's goddamn awful, that's what it is. The only thing worse is getting a medal of valour for killing some poor kid that wanted to 'just give up, that's all.' Yeah, some scared little gook just like you. I shot him right in the face with that rifle you were holding in there a while ago. There's not a day goes by that I don't think about it. You don't want that on your soul. But I got blood on my hands. I'm soiled.
White Man's Burden: Although Walt is bigoted in the beginning, he starts to take compassion to the Hmongs, eventually takes Thao under his wing and saves him from Spider's gang, and eventually manages to put away the gang for good, as no other Hmong in the area were too afraid to speak out against them.
Wrestler in All of Us: A blink if you miss moment, but before Walt steps out with his gun to stop the gang from dragging Thao, Sue bulldogs one of the members grabbing him.
Wrong Insult Offence: This exchange occurs between Walt and Sue, a spunky teenaged member of the Hmong family who'd moved in next door, concerning an old stereotype about Asians eating dogs:
Sue Lor: There's a ton of food.
Walt Kowalski: Yeah, well, just keep your hands off my dog.