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A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

Gran Torino [Blu-ray]

 

(Clint Eastwood, 2008)

 

 

Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

Production:

Theatrical: Village Roadshow & Double Nickel Entertainment/Malpaso Production

Video: Warner Home Video

 

Disc:

Region: ALL (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:56:34.779

Disc Size: 33,450,885,687 bytes

Feature Size: 29,708,101,632 bytes

Video Bitrate: 26.99 Mbps

Total Average Bitrate: 33.98 Mbps

Chapters: 29

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: June 9th, 2009

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.4:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: VC-1 Video

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Audio:

Dolby TrueHD Audio English 1344 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1344 kbps / 16-bit (AC3 Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps)
Dolby Digital Audio English 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio French 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio Portuguese 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps

 

Subtitles:

English (SDH), English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, none

 

Extras

• Manning the Wheel – in HD (9:23) – mindless background music that isn't even in period character. Interviews with cast and crew about their preferences and dream cars.

• Gran Torino: More Than a Car – in HD (3:57)

• Digital Copy Disc

 

Exclusive to Blu-ray:

• The Eastwood Way – in HD (19:17)

• BD-Live

 

 

Comment:

The Movie: 6

“Well-intentioned” is not a phrase that leaps to mind when we think about Clint Eastwood movies.  There’s something about that expression that suggests a “but” will soon follow.  Indeed, Changeling is well-intentioned in that neither its violence nor its seedier aspects strike us as gratuitous.  While Changeling  has a strong human interest veneer, Gran Torino incorporates a strongly worded public service message about racism.

 

Of course, the familiar subtexts of Guilt and Redemption, so dramatically and violently played out in Unforgiven, are back with us again, as is the idea of the Redeemer being the same person as the one redeemed.  We can feel this idea lurking a few paces behind the Preacher in Pale Rider, but fully developed in The Outlaw Josey Wales.

 

Gran Torino is set in a contemporary Midwestern town where the neighborhood has become gradually infested (I think that’s the right word) with aliens, specifically the Hmong – a refugee people from Southeast Asia.  Eastwood, who had promised himself a few years back that he would retire to the other side of the camera, got caught up in this story and agreed to direct and to play its lead character, Walt Kowalski, a man haunted by what he saw or was part of during the Korean War and has since devolved into the very essence of the American racist. 

 

His wife, who has acted as his anchor and moral compass for the previous several decades, dies just before the movie begins, and Walt is at his funeral where his adult children along with their families have come to town to pay grudging respect – not to the or mother, whom they and everyone else clearly loved, but to their father, whom they tolerate.

We see why and how in the next few minutes as Walt , who now lives alone, spends his hours caring for dog and his 1972 Ford Gran Torino Special, a car that he helped build - really.  He keeps his car tidy and occasionally walks it out to the end of the driveway where he can indulge himself with pride of accomplishment from his front porch, a porch from which he also indulges every opportunity to cast every imaginable racial slur against his new neighbors.  He want nothing from nobody, not his neighbors, nor his children and certainly not Father Janovich (Christopher Carley), who is forever trying to drag Walt back into the church (sound familiar?)

Thao (Bee Vang) is a downcast, but smart teenager who is harassed by a local gang who insist that he join them.  His older sister, Sue (Ahney Her), is fluent in English, outgoing, and not easily discouraged – especially by Walt’s irascible remarks and behavior.  She is also rather foolishly fearless.  One day, Walt proves that even a racist can respond to injustice as he confronts a trio of local blacks when they make an unwanted play for Sue.

The substance of the story is really about Walt’s gradual return to humanity, even if violence must be met with violence – up to a point.  And it is that point that sets Gran Torino apart from other Clint Eastwood movies.  Some will find the absence of mayhem and violence discouraging. Others will object to the ending.  I didn’t, particularly.  Funnily enough, my greatest difficulty with the movie was the writing and the line deliveries, which often felt forced and unnatural, especially when Walt gives Theo lessons on how to talk the talk of a man in charge of himself – someone who can pass in American society.  Was this supposed to be funny, I wondered, or instructive?  Even as extensions of Walt's peculiar character, I found the specific phraseology exchanged between him and his buddies uncomfortable and embarrassing – as if the actors were speaking a language foreign to them and didn't yet have the rhythms right.

 

 Image: 5/8  NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.

The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale.  The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

 

For a while there I worried there was something wrong with my projector: the oddly filtered image (I admit icky green is my least favorite color), which doesn't lack for sharpness, seems thin, flat, soulless – as if the life had been sucked out of it.  Blacks are sometimes crushed; shadows often lack detail.  For a while I half expected life to emerge as Eastwood’s character becomes more neighborly, but, alas, not.  I can't say if this is representative of how the movie looked in the theatre but I thought it gave the impression of being amateurish.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio & Music: 4/7

If the image is problematic, the audio is more so.  Both dialogue and music is muted.  I asked myself: Is this supposed to be how someone of Clint's age hears things?  For the life of me I can't understand why the audio sucks as it does.  Even in Dolby TrueHD the opening guitar and piano (is that a guitar and piano!) melody is remote and thick, as if heard from inside a coffin (perhaps the intended effect.)   I set my playback level once dialogue came on board, but everything remains compressed, literally like a stopped string.

 

Operations: 7

Curiously, the movie is not subtitled in Hmong.

 

Extras: 4

Here’s a movie about a guy who never lets a racial slur remain unspoken, but comes around in due course, but the extra features waste far too much time explaining or apologizing for Walt or for Clint.  I find these minutes insulting to the intelligence of its audience – like those disclaimers from Warner Home Video whose only purpose is to defend against reactionary PC hard cases.

 

 

 

But the extras do have their moments, as when Clint speaks about having his retirement interrupted by a movie where he plays a “derelict.”  He has a certain sense of detached humor about his movie and his character that I found a relief after so much back-watching.  The segments about the cars are far less impassioned or exciting than I expected – something like a pre-car-show red carpet episode.

 

The extra features all sport a fabulous image, especially as compared to the movie. 

 

 

Recommendation: 5

There's a likeable movie in here someplace, but its clumsy and ham-fisted script, filled with cardboard characters – not all of them, but too many – gets in its way.  I wish I could be more positive or sympathetic about the image or the audio, but I found them difficult and unsupportive of the drama.

Leonard Norwitz
May 29th, 2009

 


 

About the Reviewer: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.


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