Gran Torino

Movie review by
James Rocchi, Common Sense Media
Gran Torino Movie Poster Image
Eastwood drama deals with racism and other raw stuff.
  • R
  • 2008
  • 100 minutes
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 34 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 47 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The film is a complex, often uncomfortable look at racism -- and, ultimately, tolerance/acceptance. Walt eventually comes to know (and respect) the Hmong immigrants who've moved into his neighborhood, but it takes a lot of racist and culturally insensitive language and behavior to reach that point.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Walt, while ultimately motivated by loyalty and friendship, is hardly a shining role model. He's rude, racist, crabby, and incredibly insensitive. He refers to his parish priest as "an over-educated 27-year-old virgin" who "peddles superstition." Many of the film's Asian, Latino, and African-American characters are portrayed as gang members and criminals, though others are presented as hardworking and responsible.

Violence

Occasional brutal, realistic violence, including beatings, shootings, and more. A character is shot repeatedly. Several supporting characters are beaten. A supporting character is seen after being beaten and raped (the incident itself isn't shown). Discussion of violence in wartime. A character has a terminal illness.

Sex

A brief scene includes glimpses of magazine images of nude/partially clothed women. Some discussion of dating and romance from the blunt perspective of an older man.

Language

Strong language throughout, including "f--k," "g---dammit," "s--t," "bitch," "prick, "balls," and more. Also nonstop racist language aimed at Asian Americans ("gook," "swamp rats," "zipperheads," "slopes," "chinks," "fishheads," and more), African Americans ("spooks," the "N" word, and more), Irish Americans ("Micks" and more), Polish Americans ("Polacks"), homosexuals ("gay"), Jews, and Italian Americans ("Dagos" and more).

Consumerism

Mentions of some commercial brands, including the titlular Ford car, Land Cruiser, WD-40 lubricant, and more; Pabst Blue Ribbon beer cans are visible on screen.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters smoke and chew tobacco and drink beer and hard liquor. Teen smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that even though this drama is about a prejudiced character coming to know and accept people of another race, it's loaded with racial invective and harsh racist language aimed at a broad spectrum of groups. Star Clint Eastwood's character isn't much of a role model, either -- unrepentantly grumpy, smoking, and drinking throughout the film -- and while he ultimately learns to respect some of his Asian neighbors, many other Asian characters (and some African American and Latino ones) are depicted as gang members and criminals. The movie is also remarkably violent in spots, with bloody beatings and brutal shootings depicted realistically and unflinchingly. All of that said, the underlying message is one of acceptance and understanding.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byemdash October 18, 2010
I am over 25 and thought it was too violent. I felt the post rape seen was very graphic. Even though they did not show the actual crime, the very graphic imager... Continue reading
Parent of a 12 year old Written byanduril March 6, 2010
Teen, 15 years old Written byChambear August 5, 2009
Gran Torino starring Clint Eastwood, is a film about a Polish Korean War veteran who is hates the Hmong neighbors. But over time develops relationships with his... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byKelsey B February 16, 2016

Great movie to watch

It is a good movie with a good message about racism, but it comes about in a rough-around-the-edges way. There is a lot of swearing, and I don't think who... Continue reading

What's the story?

In GRAN TORINO, Clint Eastwood plays Walt Kowalski, a retired Korean War veteran shattered by his wife's recent death. Walt is a harsh, ramrod-straight man with a quick temper and high standards whose greatest joy is an orderly home and his beloved, mint-condition Gran Torino. When a clash between the quiet teen boy next door and the local Asian gangs spills onto Walt's property after the gang coerces the boy into trying to steal the car, Walt faces them down with his trusty M-1 rifle ... and becomes a hero to the local Hmongs who have slowly filled his neighborhood in the past few years. As Walt mentors the boy, Thao (Bee Vang), and becomes a gruff father figure, he also becomes closer to sassy older sister Sue (Ahney Her) -- and a threat to the gangs who live in the area and want to punish Walt, Thao, and Sue for standing up to them.

Is it any good?

Gran Torino, which Eastwood has said will mark his last acting role, succeeds in many areas while falling flat in others. It's not a grand farewell, but it is a good, solid drama about understanding, repentance, tolerance, and change. Eastwood directs with his usual understated mastery; the film looks terrific, and Eastwood gets good performances out of his supporting cast. Regrettably, the same can't be said for Eastwood's own performance; his work as Walt is a little flat and obvious. Even when Walt is at his most angry and bitter, we're still comforted by Eastwood's familiar manner and way, as if he's too much of a star these days to truly be an actor, too much of an icon to inhabit a role.

Gran Torino does get points for trying to talk about race and class at a time when too many mainstream films ignore and shun tackling such tough real-world concerns. Walt does come to know, understand, and like some of his Hmong neighbors; he also gets to know, dislike, and understand the local Asian gang. But Gran Torino includes a few too many dramatic coincidences to be truly satisfying, and the film's dramatic tone and tenor means that those who come to it looking for a straightforward action drama may be bored by the talky parts -- and those who come to it looking for a high-minded drama may be put off by the gritty violence and blunt language. Gran Torino is a well-made, somewhat pedestrian film by a Hollywood legend; at the same time, it's hard to imagine it receiving as much interest and acclaim if Eastwood wasn't involved.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the movie's message. Is it clear that it's ultimately about tolerance?

  • What does Walt learn during the movie? How can that be applied as a broader lesson?

  • Parents, ask your teens how hearing all of the racist language in the movie makes them feel -- does it help expose and undermine stereotypes, or is it offensive?

  • How does Walt change over the course of the movie? Do you think the ending is realistic? Did Walt make the right choice? Also, are his acts of self-defense to protect his home, his car, and his neighbors justifiable?

Movie details

For kids who love dramas

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