Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood) is an angry racist ex-Marine -- recently widowed and living alone with his dog in his old neighborhood now overrun with mostly Asian gangs. When the next door youth A Hmong teen named Thao (Bee Vang) tries to steal his beloved Gran Torino he strikes up a relationship with the boy that profoundly changes both. As Thao and his sister Sue Lor (Ahney Her) are threatened by gang members Walt springs into action and sets out to clean up the neighborhood using his gun and anything else at his disposal. Meanwhile his son (Brian Haley) and daughter-in-law (Geraldine Hughes) show up trying to convince Dad that it is time to move away from the ever-changing suburb he has lived in for so many decades and try a retirement community a prospect Walt will have nothing to do with. Eastwood gives the performance of a lifetime in Gran Torino. You will be reminded of everything that has made him a major star for five decades and astonished at the remarkable new challenges he sets for himself -- even in the sunset of a stellar screen career. Even though Kowalski’s language and attitudes verge on the Archie Bunker mentality Eastwood’s dry delivery of such offending lines actually elicits more laughter than outrage. It’s almost as if we are looking at what ‘Dirty’ Harry Callahan might have been like in retirement. His humanity is eventually allowed to shine through and it’s the journey that the actor takes with this character that makes Torino so worthwhile. Amazingly Eastwood has never won an Oscar for acting but Gran Torino might change things. Of the young newcomers Vang and Her are sweetly convincing and good foils for Walt’s crankiness. As usual Clint Eastwood the director paces the drama in a leisurely manner letting things unfold in its own due time. More than any other recent film he’s directed including his most recent film Changeling Gran Torino seems defiantly old fashioned in its storytelling. Reportedly Clint didn’t change a word of first-time screenwriter Nick Schenk’s script and that does lend itself to some awkward moments particularly in scenes with the neighbors. Clint has always been interested in different aspects of the race issues in America and here uses a disgruntled Marine to express what is simmering below the surface in many pockets of American life. Although younger audiences may find the film’s rhythms rather slow the ultimate payoff is huge and Clint fans are likely to eat it up.
It’s been over a decade since Rocky “The Italian Stallion” Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) last set foot in a boxing ring. He still calls SoPhi home (that's South Philly) but just about everything else has changed: Adrian (Talia Shire) has died of cancer; his son Robert (Milo Ventimiglia) has gone from a fiery kid to a cold shrewd corporate yuppie; and his old pal/brother-in-law Paulie (Burt Young) won’t hear of Rock-o’s talk of the past. Rocky himself is now a businessman of sorts running his local eatery fittingly called Adrian’s where each night he treats diners to stories from the ring and free photo-ops. Rocky’s also older and softer but not necessarily wiser. After ESPN airs a computerized “What if?” bout between him and current champ Mason Dixon (Antonio Tarver) which Rocky wins Rocky gets the itch and Dixon’s promoters see a huge financial opportunity as well as a chance to endear the hated Dixon to fans. They plan a safe exhibition-style match between the two but things don’t always go according to plan do they?! It may sound blasphemous but the reason Sly Stallone has always slid so seamlessly into the role of Rocky is because well let’s just say that the part of a battered jock who has trouble getting his words out suits him perfectly to put it nicely. He continues down that same path here with a performance so off that it has indeed become part of the franchise’s appeal and the character’s endearment. Stallone pumps out a few genuine tears this time but the gross overusage of the word "yo" to emphasize his fighter’s brutishness is a microcosm of all that’s wrong. But of course it’s not as though this movie would’ve lived or died on its performances. Nonetheless the others turn in fine performances. New additions Ventimiglia (TV’s Heroes) Geraldine Hughes--who stars as “Little Marie” all grown up--and real-life boxing star Tarver are all pleasant surprises with Tarver shockingly adequate as a form of his own self. And Young one of the most prolific actors of his generation has appeared with Stallone in each of the six Rockys. His drunken loud-mouth histrionics are by now almost as integral to Rocky as Rocky. Let’s not beat around the bush: Stallone is 60 and Rocky V came out in 1990. Whatever reasoning he comes up with for releasing a sixth movie 15 years later is questionable let alone the potential for further sullying a dying once-great franchise. It would seem a safety net for the aging Stallone a film entity who let’s face it struggles mightily when he’s not Rocky--or Rambo whose own resurrection is set for next year. The franchise is gratuitous at this point and usually spoofs are the only type of movies that are afforded significant longevity. All that said and with the expectations now lowered if not gone Stallone writes and directs a crowd-pleaser at the very least with Balboa. It’s very uncomplicated there’s no doubt the path will lead to him un-retiring and if you try you’ll find endless things to laugh at but the no-frills movie will still have wide appeal mostly to anyone who’s not a film buff--although even some of them will take the bait. The bottom line is that while Balboa is truly laughable in spots because of Stallone as a writer/director he returns somewhat faithfully to the Rocky roots and does enough to provoke audience fist pumps.
Sylvester Stallone's Rocky Balboa character has a new ladylove in the shape of Irish thespian Geraldine Hughes.
The actress, whose one-woman show, Belfast Blues, has been a big hit in New York, will play the aging boxer's girlfriend in Stallone's sixth Rocky movie, Rocky Balboa.
Hughes will recreate the role of Little Marie, who appeared briefly in the first Rocky film, according to website MovieHole.net.
The new film also stars Milo Ventimiglia, real-life boxer Antonio Tarver, Mr. T and Burt Young.
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