XenForo Template Gran Torino Release Date: June 9, 2009 Studio: Warner Home Video Packaging/Materials: Double-disc Blu-Ray case with cardstock slipcover Year: 2008 Rating: R Running Time: 1h56m MSRP: $35.99 MAIN FEATURESPECIAL FEATURESVideo1080p high definition 16x9 2.40:11080p high definitionAudioDolby TrueHD: English 5.1 / Dolby Digital: English 5.1, French 5.1 (dubbed in Quebec), Spanish 5.1, Portuguese 5.1StereoSubtitlesEnglish, French, Spanish, Portuguese (movie and select bonus material) The Feature: 3.5/5 Recently widowed Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood) is one cranky S.O.B. Even when he keeps his mouth shut about things like his granddaughter's navel piercing or his son's Japanese-made car, there's no questioning his disapproval. His razorwire glare and low growl would scare off a junkyard dog. Most of that misanthropic charm is reserved for his neighbors, Hmong immigrants from Southeast Asia, whom Walt calls "swamp rats" when he's feeling generous. His whole neighborhood is in fact Hmong, making him the minority in a place he never would have imagined. Though his complaints about the situation seem limitless, he leaves his neighbors alone if they do the same. The unspoken arrangement has held up, until members of a Hmong street gang send the neighbor boy Thao to steal Walt's prized possession, a 1973 Gran Torino. Thao's botched attempt brings the gang back to persuade him into a second try, which quickly turns into a tussle that bleeds into Walt's front lawn. If Walt had known it was Thao behind the attempted robbery, he probably would have let the gang have him, but instead he breaks up the fight and sends the thugs running. His unintentional act of heroism makes him the toast of the neighborhood and begins a steady stream of food and flowers on his doorstep. Though all of the neighbors' offerings are quickly discarded, Walt does accept one thing - Thao, who is sent over to work off his debt for the attempted theft. While the quiet and tentative boy is slow to impress Walt, his spirited and gregarious older sister Sue (Ahney Her) easily befriends him and becomes his unofficial guide into the Hmong culture. Though Walt is shocked to realize he actually has more in common with his immigrant neighbors than members of his own family, he doesn't resist the truth either, allowing genuine care and friendship to develop where he previously nurtured ignorance and anger. He eventually offers Thao help and guidance in the only way he knows how - showing him how to fix things around the house, helping him get a job, and offering some useful, if a bit terse, dating advice. If only the street gang were so open to change. It still has its sights on Thao and is determined to make his life hell. Of coures Walt can dish it out too and makes a formidable defender, but it will take more than simple retribution to put an end to things. The trick will be how to leave Thao, Sue and their family out of it. Returning to acting after a four-year absence (though he has of course stayed busy behind the camera), Eastwood again takes on a role he was born to play. Primarily drawing upon his Dirty Harry street cred, Eastwood's Walt Kowalski is both seriously menacing and uncomfortably entertaining, a sort of ass-kicking Archie Bunker. Though the relationship arc between Walt and Thao is predictable, as is Walt's change of heart in general, Eastwood as director shows once more he's skilled at making the familiar seem fresh - or at least not stale. In fact Eastwood's greatest asset is himself as the lead actor. The professional inexperience of the Hmong co-stars is obvious at times, there are some gaps in logic (which Eastwood has been known to overlook in favor of emotional impact), and the final act too heavy handed in the Christian metaphors, so it's ultimately down to Eastwood's performance to impart the necessary credibility and resonance. And that it does, allowing us to overlook many of the film's shortcomings, and making it really the number one reason to see "Gran Torino". Though it may not be Eastwood's best directorial work, it's a serious reminder of what we've been missing these last four years. Though Eastwood didn't garner the Academy Award nomination many were expecting, it's a performance he deserves to be proud of and, if he chooses to do so, a great note to leave on as an actor. Video Quality: 4/5 The film is accurately framed at 2.40:1 and presented in 1080p with the VC-1 codec. Black levels are deep and inky, though there is consistent, if slight, black crush throughout, giving the image a higher than normal level of contrast and somewhat limited shadow detail. Skin tones can also be a bit variable, though nothing seems to veer too off course; colors in general can have a slightly desaturated quality. Detail is good though, with textures in skin and object surfaces distinct but not quite as sharp as I've seen in other transfers. Fortunately, there appears to be no excessive digital processing like edge enhancement. Audio Quality: 4/5 The Dolby TrueHD audio track (which some will be pleased to hear is the default) offers a pleasant, immersive experience thanks to effective use of the surrounds for environmental effects. The sounds of wind blowing through the trees, passing cars from a not-too-distant major thoroughfare, and reverberation through a church sanctuary all contribute toward a subtle but satisfying surround experience. LFE is minimal - if present at all - though bass activity is sufficiently deep and full. Dialogue is clear, but I often had trouble understanding lines from both Vang and Her. It wasn't so much an issue with accents (which are minimal) as it was poor enunciation. Special Features: 1.5/5 A meager set of extras tends toward the promotional in nature and offers few insights into the film. "The Eastwood Way" (19m17s): Documentary offers the usual background on the production, including how Eastwood got involved and the challenges in finding Hmong actors, as well as some background on the Hmong people. The write-up in the menu system promises more information about Eastwood's directorial style, but it amounts to little more than talking heads about how easy he is to work with. "Manning the Wheel" (9m23s): Cast and crew talk about their interest in cars and the significance of the movie's Gran Torino. "Gran Torino: More Than A Car" (3m27s): A short visit to the Woodward Dream Cruise in Detroit, where various participants are interviewed about their interest in cars. BD-Live: At the time of review, only a streaming theatrical trailer was available. Digital Copy: Download a digital copy for playback on the computer or portable device. Compatible with both Mac and Windows. Title Recap The Feature: 3.5/5 Video Quality: 4/5 Audio Quality: 4/5 Special Features: 1.5/5 Overall Score (not an average): 3.5/5 A film with familiar narrative and emotional arcs is basically redeemed by Eastwood's great performance. The Blu-Ray release offers a very good technical presenatation but a disappointing set of extras.