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At seventy-eight years of age, Clint Eastwood proved that he still has what it takes as both and actor and a director, and for my money, GRAN TORINO ($36) rates as one of his finest achievements on both fronts. In GRAN TORINO Eastwood plays Walt Kowalski, a recently widowed, bigoted, Korean War veteran, with a low tolerance for his two self-absorbed sons, and even less tolerance for the minorities that have overrun his Michigan neighborhood. Still haunted by things he was forced to do during the Korean War, Walt is a cantankerous old man, who carries around a lot of emotional baggage that he is unwilling to unload, even when, Father Janovich (Christopher Carley), the young neighborhood priest reaches out to the widower.

Living next door to Walt is a Hmong family, which includes two teenagers, the introverted Thao (Bee Vang) and his outgoing sister Sue (Ahney Her). Their cousin, who goes by the moniker Spider (Doua Moua), is the leader of a violent Hmong gang, who tries to indoctrinate the reluctant Thao into their ranks. Intimidated into joining the gang, Thao's initiation turns out to be stealing Walt's prized car, a 1972 Gran Torino Sport. Of course, Walt catches the thief in the act, but Thao manages to get away. A few days later, the gang has a confrontation with Thao, which results in Walt threatening the gang members with his rifle and ordering them to get off his lawn.

The Hmong community learns of Walt's brave act, and soon they are showing their appreciation, which doesnít sit well with Walt. Who wants nothing more than to be left alone. Walt again steps in when some black teenagers are harassing Sue, and this time around, he finds himself invited to a family barbecue. In addition, Thaoís mother insists that her son work off a debt of honor to Walt for attempting to steal his Gran Torino. Eventually, Walt comes to see Thao and Sue as surrogates for his estranged children, and ultimately, the old man does what needs doing to guarantee the teenagersí welfare. The cast of GRAN TORINO also features Brian Haley, Geraldine Hughes, Dreama Walker, Brian Howe, John Carroll Lynch, William Hill and Scott Eastwood.

Warner Home Video has made GRAN TORINO available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the VC-1 codec. The 1080p presentation is highly pleasing and delivers the kind of image one should naturally expect from a movie freshly coming off of its theatrical run. Everything appears very sharp, highly defined and quite dimensional. Fine details, like the weathering of Eastwoodís face, really impress on the close-ups. Colors are subdued, but the flesh tones come across in a very natural fashion. Blacks are inky and the whites are crisp. Contrast is ever so slightly pushed, which is a good stylistic choice for the story Eastwood is telling. Shadow detail is a little restrained, which appears intentional. The film elements from which GRAN TORINO has been mastered are virtually pristine. Grain is very mild, which is reflective of less granular nature of modern film stocks, instead of being a result too much digital processing.

GRAN TORINO is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. Much of GRAN TORINO is talky drama, so the sound design is tends to be localized front and center. This isnít to say that the outlying channels donít see any activity, they do, but sounds are of a more environmental nature, rather than active effects that show off oneís home theater system. Fidelity is strong for the musical component. The bass channel adds the required weight and impact to key sequences. English dialogue is almost always easy to understand. English, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 channel tracks are also encoded onto the disc. Subtitles are available in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a few extras. Featurettes include the following programs: The Eastwood Way (nineteen minutes), Manning The Wheel (nine minutes) and Gran Torino: More Than A Car (three minutes). GRAN TORINO is also BD-Live enabled (requires a Profile 2.0 player). A Digital Copy of the film is also provided.

GRAN TORINO finds Clint Eastwood still at the top of his game. The Blu-ray presentation is very strong, even if the material isnít one for the demo pile. Highly recommended.



Gran Torino (+ Digital Copy and BD-Live) [Blu-ray] (2008)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2009 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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