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Release Date(s)2008 (June 9, 2009)
Clint Eastwood’s film work has been a bit hit or miss in recent years (Million Dollar Baby was outstanding, though if you missed Blood Work you can be forgiven), but Gran Torino is without question his finest effort in some time, both in front of and behind the camera.
Here, Eastwood stars as Walt Kowalski, a retired Korean War veteran and Michigan auto worker who’s just suffered the loss of his beloved wife. Walt’s remaining family – his kids and grand kids – are about as unlikable and unworthy a bunch as ever you’ll see, so it’s a wonder that he’s such a sourpuss. To make matters worse (in Walt’s opinion anyway), his formerly pleasant middle-class neighborhood has been overrun by thugs and immigrants, including Hmong families from overseas, brought to the U.S. by the Lutheran church.
It’s quickly apparent that Walt doesn’t have much patience for, or like of, his Hmong neighbors, especially when the quiet boy next door tries to steel his vintage and lovingly-preserved Gran Torino. But after he saves the boy’s sister from harassment by gang members, and the young man himself seeks to make amends for his offense, Walt strikes up an unlikely bond of friendship with both of them, and discovers that it’s often life’s surprises that truly make it worth living.
The 1080p video quality here is generally good, if less than impressive. Gran Torino was shot on film, but you’ll see nothing of grain here. Detail is, as you’d expect, somewhat lacking, giving the image an overall slightly too soft look. Colors are good, however, and contrast is excellent. The Dolby TrueHD audio mix is about on par with the image. It’s as good as it needs to be without dazzling you. Clarity and fidelity are fine, ambience is nice – all that a dialogue-driven film requires.
Sadly, there’s not much in the way of extras here. All you get is a trio of featurettes (all in HD), including a 20-minute look at the making of the film (The Eastwood Way), a 9-minute look at adolescence and car culture (Manning the Wheel) and a 4-minute piece on the car itself (Gran Torino: More Than a Car). That’s it. Well, other than a Digital Copy version on disc, if you care about such things. Digital Copy is a nice convenience feature, and I know there are those who really make use of it, so hats off to Warner for including it. As for me, however... when you’ve got a good Blu-ray driven home theatre, you aren’t likely ever to watch a movie on an iPod, you know?
The lack of bonus material aside, Gran Torino is a really wonderful film. Some of the language is a bit salty, but once you get used to Walt’s rough edges, he really grows on you. This is a truly delightful performance by Eastwood, and I think it’s one he’ll be remembered for. Warner’s Blu-ray is unremarkable, but it’s still the best way to experience the film outside of a theatre. Gran Torino is definitely recommended. Just get the disc on sale.
- Bill Hunt