Release date: Dec. 17
The “Gran Torino” trailer features plenty of Clint Eastwood waving guns around and growling tough-guy one liners — basically, the kind of behavior that kept him tops with fans but an also-ran for Oscar actor prizes all these years — yet those in Eastwood’s camp insist the ads don’t tell the whole story.
The film, which the ever-efficient director went off and made while waiting on the visual effects from “Changeling” to come in, doesn’t open until December, echoing the last-minute-reveal strategy that earned Eastwood picture and director nods for “Million Dollar Baby” and “Letters From Iwo Jima.”
True to grizzled form, the screen legend plays Walt Kowalski, a Korean War vet and former Ford factory worker who has soured into a bigoted, set-in-his-ways old coot. With the neighborhood changing before his eyes, the surly loner would just as soon avoid all the Hmong families moving into his territory, but he’s pulled into their business when he catches the teenage punk next door trying to steal his car during a gang initiation.
Walt’s Gran Torino represents one of two trophies from his time on earth (a symbol of hard work and years of savings), the other being his service rifle. And though the trailer emphasizes the conflict, suggesting a “Death Wish”-style scenario, the film could just as easily be a tearjerker about bonding and mentorship, as insiders suggest.
Eastwood has quite a track record for picking strong scripts (this one is by newcomer Nick Schenk, who shares story credit with Dave Johannson), proving even more selective when it comes to those films he agrees to appear in himself. “Changeling” may be the more ambitious film, but “Gran Torino” has intimacy on its side, giving Eastwood a choice of which pic to support. Don’t forget, acting is the trophy that’s still missing on Eastwood’s mantle.