"Gran Torino": Best DVDs of May 2009
What it is: Clint Eastwood directs and stars (and composes the soundtrack, of course) in this drama that's often been described as What Dirty Harry Would Be Like As an Old Man, but it's much more. Eastwood plays Walt Kowalski, a crotchety, bigoted Korean War veteran whose life collides with the Hmong family next door when their son Thao (Bee Vang) tries to steal his prized possession--a 1972 Gran Torino--as part of a gang initiation. When he wields his gun at the gang trying to weasel its way into his neighbor's lives, he instantly becomes their protector.
Why it's significant: Quietly released at the end of 2008, Gran Torino turned out to be the highest-grossing film of Eastwood's career ($147 million and counting), not to mention getting him some of his best reviews. Surprisingly, it was snubbed at Oscar season, but that's all the more reason to check it out. (It actually streets June 6, but we wanted to highlight it now). He employs his typical no-frills direction here, and as our reviewer says, "Just as Unforgiven was a tragic reflection on Eastwood's legacy in the Western genre, Gran Torino caps and eloquently critiques the urban heritage of Dirty Harry
and his violent brethren. And on top of that, the movie becomes a savvy
meditation on America in a particular historical moment, racially,
economically, spiritually. Call it a 'state of the union' message. But
call it that with a wry grin." --Ellen