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Gran Torino (2008)Gran Torino (2008)

Clint Eastwood directed, produced, and starred as Walt Kowalski in this drama about life and death in a changing America. He's more like his character type than ever before. Kowalski is a snarling Polish racist, bitter retired auto worker, and haunted Korean war veteran who despises the Hmong "swamp rats" who've moved into the dilapidated house next door. The film opens with two clashing cultural rituals — the church burial of Kowalski's wife, and the strange Hmong customs that welcome a new baby. The film ends with another funeral that we never expect, this one the result of a deliberately redemptive act. Early on we surmise that the gruff and grumbly Kowalski will be won over by his Hmong neighbors. But there's far more to the film, as Kowalski can't stand idly by and not help the Hmong negotiate their own cultural obstacles, namely, Hmong gang members who try to recruit their son Thao. Large portions of this film are explicitly religious as Kowalski experiences a dramatic conversion.

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