Blu-Ray Review: Gran Torino

Considered by many to be Clint Eastwood's acting and directorial masterpiece (so far), as well as both the extension and final evolution of his Dirty Harry and Wild West gunslinger personas, Gran Torino is a brilliant, bad-ass Eastwood ride. It's the true-grit tale of a politically incorrect old coot coping with changing times who discovers kinship amongst his displaced yet resilient Hmong neighbors, as well as a haunting reflection on the American Dream in decline. (Read our full-length film review here.)

Special Features:

The Blu-ray DVD for the film includes special behind-the-story features and an exclusive extra that primarily reflects on the "American man's love affair with cars." (Maybe women love cars too but that doesn't matter to this movie.) Manning the Wheel: The Meaning of Manhood contains interviews with cast and filmmakers who rattle off a few obvious man-loves-car truths about the cultural bonds between "boys and their toys." Besides vague statements like "owning a car is like a rite of passage" or cars are "an expression of [male] self," there's not much deep exploration or expert opinion on "the meaning of manhood." Nothing any American man (or woman) hadn't probably already observed. Worthwhile highlights: The Gran Torino crew, including Clint, describing their first cars/first loves.

Gran Torino: More Than a Car, rather than get to the nuts and bolts of what makes a Gran Torino tick (how the auto design was conceived or how it became popular in its era), instead tours Detroit's Woodward Dream Cruise annual vintage '50s/'60s car event. There, American auto buffs stand in front of their shiny blue Thunderbirds and cherry-red Mustangs briefly describing how they acquired their vehicle, sometimes mentioning that it symbolizes a father/son bond because they restored it together.

Blu-ray exclusive: The Eastwood Way sets out to reveal "the actor/director's filmmaking process up close." This is perhaps the most interesting feature due to its insider perspective; it includes Clint discussing why he took the role despite swearing he'd gravitate out of acting, plus touches on the genesis of the Walt character and Gran Torino story along with some background on Hmong culture. In The Great Unknown sub-section, the film's casting director, Clint, and others explain how they chose actors for the roles, especially those of the Hmong community who Eastwood wanted to be authentically Hmong (not some other Asian ethnicity). Clips of Bee Vang (Thao) and Ahney Her's (Sue) audition tapes provide further insight on their decision making. And of course, there's repeated mention of the efficiency and joy of working "The Eastwood Way" on a movie set that's a "well-oiled machine."

*The Blu-ray DVD also comes with a digital copy of the film for use on computers and other devices (an offer that expires in 2010) and is available now from Warner Home Video.