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His lawn. You should get off of it.

"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
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Gran Torino is a 2008 film, directed by and starring Clint Eastwood, in what was once rumoured to be his final onscreen performancenote . He plays Walter "Walt" Kowalski, an elderly retired 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.

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Not to be confused with the series Gran Turismo.


This film provides examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: Walt's pictures of the Korean War are stills from Kelly's Heroes.
  • 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.
  • Artistic License – Cars:
    • Walt claims to have installed the steering wheel in his Gran Torino. All Gran Torinos were assembled in Lorain, Ohio, not the Metro Detroit area Ford Plant.
    • Walt's Torino's license plate has three letters, followed by three numbers followed by one letter. Michigan license plates have three letters followed by four numbers.
  • Badass Boast: Walt has a few:
    • "Ever notice how you come across somebody once in a while that you shouldn't have fucked with? That's me."
    • "Yeah, I blow a hole in your face and then I go in the house and I sleep like a baby. You can count on that. We used to stack fucks like you five feet high in Korea ... used you for sandbags."
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  • Badass Grandpa/Retired Badass: Walt Kowalski embodies a realistic version of this trope, as well as being a Deconstruction of the trope. Walt's fighting skills don't help him in his life in the city. His recently deceased wife was all too aware that their two grown sons cannot empathize with Walt, so she asks the local Good Shepherd to keep an eye on him after her death. Walt’s antics and Badass Boasts give him a reputation of a Cranky Neighbor and only make things worse (see My God, What Have I Done?). His real act of bravery is realizing he is a Troubled Sympathetic Bigot, and the conflict is not solved by his acts of violence but with a Batman Gambit that invokes Shoot Him! He Has a... Wallet. The only people who really felt protected by him were his neighbors.
  • 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. He's lucky that the whole gang opens fire on him and not just one or two of them.
  • Berserk Button: It's hard not to press Walt's: it is best not to steal his Gran Torino, get him to move into a retirement home, or, in a more heartwarming example, hurt Thao and Sue.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Played straight with Sue when she bulldogs one of Spider's boys trying to kidnap Thao.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Most of the Hmong dialogue is untranslated, and that which does get translated is by interpreters in the scene rather than for the audience's benefit.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Walt is dead, but he was terminally ill anyway and his sacrifice lets justice be done. Thao gets the Torino, and has a bright future ahead of him, but Sue is traumatised after being gang-raped, and doesn't seem to be on the way to making any sort of recovery.
  • Bleak Abyss Retirement Home: If Walt had let his son force him into a nursing home, odds are it would have been one of these. Walt certainly expects this trope to be in effect.
  • Blood from the Mouth: Walt periodically coughs up blood throughout the movie, foreshadowing his eventual death — though, interestingly, it's not whatever's causing that cough that does him in.
  • Book-Ends: A funeral.
  • Boomerang Bigot: Walt is a white Pole who throws derogatory slurs at everyone, including Poles and whites.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Ashley Kowalski, granddaughter in this case. She smokes in Walt's garage and then starts tactlessly asking for his possessions after he dies.
  • 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.
  • Coming-of-Age Story: A delayed example — Walter Kowalski, even when he is a senior who has raised a family, still lives emotionally as the young soldier that crossed the Moral Event Horizon during the Korean War. He must assume he is a grumpy, jaded, cranky, Racist Grandpa who has alienated his own family and now that his wife has died is completely alone, so he can be a real Badass Grandpa Papa Wolf.
  • Convenient Terminal Illness: Walt.
  • Cool Car: Everyone wants Walt's 1972 Gran Torino.
  • Cool Gun: Walt's M1 Garand rifle and M1911A1 pistol. He carried both of them in combat. In the 1940s and 50s, the US Army allowed combat veterans to buy their issued rifles and pistol.
  • Cranky Neighbor: Walt, initially. The elderly Hmong lady next door is only too happy to return his sentiments.
  • Death Glare:
    • Walt levels quite a few over the course of the film. The film starts out with him glaring at virtually the whole cast.
    • Walt's son turns around and gives one to Thao when Walt leaves his car to the young man instead of his grand daughter.
  • Deconstruction: What Unforgiven did for the Westerns that Clint Eastwood starred in, this film does for Clint Eastwood's other major genre, the urban vigilante film.
  • "Do It Yourself" Theme Tune: Clint Eastwood co-wrote the song on the end credits.
  • Dramatic Drop: Walt drops his glass when Sue returns from being gang-raped.
  • Drink Order: Walt drinks only Pabst Blue Ribbon at his home and the bar. When drinking at his neighbor's, he notes that they have plenty of beer, even if it's not Pabst.
  • Duct Tape for Everything: Or to be exact, duct tape, vise-grips and WD40 for half of everything.
  • Dysfunctional Family: Both Walt's and Thao's families. Walt's sons and their families hate him and just want his inheritance for their own selfish gains, while Thao is the cousin of Spider, who is a leader of the gang and the Big Bad.
  • First-Name Basis: When Walt allows the priest to use his name, it is a dramatic moment.
  • Foreshadowing: The newspaper article (see the quote at the top of the page) foreshadows events at the end of the film.
  • Gang Bangers: The Hmong boys are somewhere on the scale between this and a Generic Ethnic Crime Gang.
  • Gangland Drive-By: The gang shoots at Walt's windows in a drive-by.
  • 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.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Averted when Spider burns Thao's cheek with a cigarette.
    • Played straight when Walt witnesses a ceremony where his Hmong neighbors cut the head off of a chicken. The cut itself is never shown but it's heard when it shown Walt's reaction to it.
    Walt: Goddamn barbarians.
  • Grumpy Old Man: Walt Kowalski, complete with the classic "Get off my lawn!" line.
  • Guttural Growler: Again, Walt.
  • Hard-Work Montage: Thao trying to make amends for trying to steal from Walt.
  • Hate Sink: Before we are introduced to Spider and his gang, we have Walt's sons and their selfish families at the beginning of the movie due to their selfishness to swindle Walt of his possessions and their Irrational Hatred of Walt.
  • Heel–Faith Turn:
    • 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 sins he's confessing being either kissing a woman at a Christmas party 40 years prior, not paying the tax after selling an expensive possession, or not being close to his two sons. 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 one.
  • The Hero Dies: Walt himself at the end.
  • Heroic BSoD: The final straw for Walt is when Sue is gang raped. He drops his shot glass in reaction.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Walt provokes the gang into killing him in public so the members will be put away for his murder.
  • Higher Education Is for Women:
    Sue: It's really common. Hmong girls over here fit in better, we adjust. The girls go to college, the boys go to jail.
  • Hypocrite/Small Name, Big Ego: As a lot of Racist Grandpas, Walt regards himself as a man who knows plenty about life and death, and who is abused by those (other races) surrounding him. Everyone else thinks is just a Grumpy Old Man. The movie shows his Character Development from this to a realistic assessment of his qualities and weakness.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: Complete with coughing up blood for Walt. Justified, considering his age and heavy smoking; it's strongly implied to be lung cancer.
  • 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.
  • Invulnerable Knuckles: Averted. When Walt gives Smokie a beatdown to intimidate him and his fellow gang members into leaving Thao alone, Sue notices his bruised knuckles the next day. He further messes them up against his kitchen cabinets after Sue's rape.
  • 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.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Walt tries to hide his nice side with a racist exterior, but Sue is indeed correct in saying that he's a good man.
  • Kick the Dog: Just see how Walt's family treat his wife's death and his granddaughter's greed and cruelty.
  • 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 realizes that he knows plenty about death, but not a lot about life.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: After Walt's wife dies, his sons and their families disrespectfully tried to get their hands on Walt's possessions. By the end of the film, Walt leaves them with nothing.
  • Last Disrespects: During the funeral of Walt Kowalski's wife, his granddaughter was dressed inappropriately and can be seen fiddling around on her cell phone during the service. Walt's sons start asking Walt if he wants to go to a "nice retirement place" so they could sell the house, and the same disrespectful granddaughter starts asking whether she could have some of the furniture and other possessions in the house.
  • Loophole Abuse: Thao's family forces him to do work for Walt to make up for trying to steal his Gran Torino; Walt, however, doesn't want this, and only accepts when the family insists declining would be a grave insult. However, nobody specifies what sort of jobs he should do, so Walt's first job for him is something simple and meaningless: counting the number of birds in the trees around his 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 people who live alone or are isolated tend to talk to themselves just to break the silence around them.
  • MacGuffin: The Gran Torino.
  • Mighty Whitey: Walter. It apparently takes one elderly auto-worker to figure out how to fix everything that his Hmong neighbors can't, whether that's teaching Theo how to "be a man" or stopping the local gang.
  • Misanthrope Supreme: Walt, at first.
  • Mohs Scale of Violence Hardness: It gets a 5, for the rape, otherwise the violence is on level 4, with the cigarette burning and Walt Kowalski being riddled with bullets at the end (mostly bloodless).
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • 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.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: In retaliation for them assaulting Thao, Walt tracks down Spider and his gang to their house and proceeds to beat and kick the shit out of Smokie when he's alone, before threatening to kill him if he touched Thao again, without raising his voice above a venom-filled whisper.
  • 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. Interestingly, Walt never actually uses literal N-word privileges, and when confronted by black thugs he opts for the common 1950's - 1970's racist terms "spook" and "spade" (the use of such 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.
  • Papa Wolf: Walt turns into one for Thao and Sue after becoming a grandfather figure 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.
  • Peer Pressure Makes You Evil: Sue notes that the women in Hmong society go to college while the men go to prison. We see Thao heavily pressured to join his cousin's gang.
  • Perp Walk: Spider has one as he's being led out in cuffs.
  • Posthumous Character: Walt's wife. She was apparently a very religious woman and active in her local Catholic church. Walt loved her deeply.
  • The Precious, Precious Car: Walt's Gran Torino. Not only is it vintage, Walt has a personal attachment to its construction: he was on the line where it was built.
  • Pretend Prejudice: Walt.
  • Punch a Wall: Walt ends up doing this after Sue's rape, breaking several of his cabinet doors - even the glass ones - in his rage.
  • Racist Grandma: Walt is a deconstruction of this trope. The whole point of the movie is that Walt realizes the people who he has being directing racial slurs all his life are Not So Different, that his experience as a soldier only let him know much more about death than about life, and that he is a Know-Nothing Know-It-All.
  • 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: Invoked and ultimately defied. 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, telling him that no matter what the reason, he does not want to know what it's like, much less actually do so and have to live with it.
  • Real Men Love Jesus: Walt disparages his local Good Shepherd but develops a respect for him. He reveals himself to be a believer in the end, when he says a Hail Mary before his death and ultimately donates his house to the church.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: Hinted at when Thao inadvertently points a rifle at Walt while examining it, evoking an unspoken rebuke.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Walt sacrifices himself to save Thao and Sue after a life of guilt for the things he did in war, most specifically killing a young man about Thao's age when he was trying to surrender. Walt's last scene with Thao, spoken through a screen door, acts like a final confession before death.
  • Revenge by Proxy: Spider's gang rapes Sue to get back at Thao and Walt.
  • 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."
    • Spider's car is a straight example.
  • 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.
  • Screw Politeness, I'm a Senior!: The reason Walt gets away with universal N-Word Privileges.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Walt is kind of one. "The thing that haunts a man the most, are the orders he doesn't want to follow."
  • Shoot Him! He Has a... Wallet: Walt uses this in his sacrifice, pointing a finger gun at all of the armed gangsters and then drawing a lighter in an aggressive-looking manner, so the gang gets arrested for murdering an unarmed man.
  • 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 cousins, invokes this trope, mostly to make fun of Thao for how often he's seen cleaning and gardening. Walt, on the other hand and in a surprising turn, doesn't invoke sexism of any kind.
  • Stuffed into the Fridge: Sue spends most of the film as an engaging, intelligent, and interesting character. However, after she is beaten and gang-raped in order to motivate Walt's Heroic Sacrifice, that's it for her agency, and even dialogue, for the rest of the film. We only see her again, still bruised and shell-shocked, in the congregation at Walt's funeral.
  • Suicide by Cop: Walt pretends to have a gun so the gang will kill him and get locked up for murder.
  • 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.
  • Tactful Translation: Sue attempts to provide one of these for her Racist Grandma's insults to Walt as "Welcome to our home", but given how angry the grandma is, even Walt who doesn't speak a word of Hmong gets the gist of what she's telling him.
  • Thanatos Gambit: Walt's plan to bring the gangsters to justice involves his death.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Initially a grumpy old man, Walt slowly starts to bond with Sue and Thao, especially Thao. He helps set Thao on the right path, protects them from gangs and thugs, and makes the Heroic Sacrifice of baiting Spider and his gang into gunning him down with plenty of witnesses in order to lock them up and leave Thao and Sue alone for good.
  • Tranquil Fury: Walt finally calms down in the moments before his death. "Oh, I am at peace."
  • Troll: Walt's executor intentionally drags out his reading of Walt's will so he can get the maximum possible effect when Walt's family realizes that he left them nothing.
  • 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.
  • Unusual Euphemism: "Christ All Friday." Possibly meant as a Curse of the Ancients as well.
  • 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.
  • War Is Hell: Walt's monologue to Thao near the end of the movie in a way of persuading him to not get involved in killing someone:
    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 valor 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. That's why I'm going in alone tonight.
  • What Does She See in Him?: Lampshaded when Walt is talking to Thao about attracting women, when he mentions that he, an unpleasant man, managed to marry a wonderful woman like his late wife.
  • 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 by giving their neighbors a chance to speak out against them when he's murdered.
  • 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.
    Sue Lor: No worries, we only eat cats.
  • Your Days Are Numbered: A longtime smoker, Walt suffers from coughing fits, occasionally coughing up blood. When he finally goes to see a doctor about it, it's made clear he doesn't have long to live, making his Heroic Sacrifice all the more understandable.

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