Gran Torino

Timeline: Clint Eastwood and “Gran Torino”


May: 31st: Clint Eastwood is born in San Francisco to Clinton Eastwood Sr. and Ruth Wood.


Eastwood is drafted into the United States Army during the Korean War but instead of being sent to Korea, he serves as a lifeguard in northern California.


Eastwood registers as a Republican to support Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952.


Clint Eastwood starts his acting career with a minor role as Lab Technician Jennings in Revenge of the Creature, a horror film by director Jack Arnold.


Eastwood has his first major breakthrough as Rowdy Yates for the CBS hour-long western series Rawhide.


Eastwood produces his own album as a country singer, Cowboy Favorites.


Eastwood plays The Man With No Name, the morally ambiguous antihero of Sergio Leone’s successful spaghetti western A Fistful of Dollars. He returned in both sequels, For a Few Dollars More (1965) and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966). In his portrayal of a loner seeking revenge, he develops the features that serve as his trademarks: reduced acting, coolness, a grim sense of humor – and the habit of speaking through his teeth.


With the help of his advisor Irving Leonard, Eastwood establishes his own production company, Malpaso Productions. --- In Hang ’Em High, a Western film directed by Ted Post, Clint Eastwood appears as Jed Cooper, an innocent man who survives a lynching and takes revenge.


Eastwood co-stars with Lee Marvin in the only musical of his career, Paint Your Wagon.


Eastwood celebrates his directorial debut with Play Misty for Me, a psychological thriller. As a director, Eastwood prefers to work rather fast, avoiding actors’ rehearsing and completing scenes on the first take. He doesn’t normally use storyboards and reduces scripts to what is absolutely necessary for the audience to follow the plot. Technically, he shows an inclination for backlighting and low-key lighting. --- In the same year, Eastwood plays the title role in Don Siegel’s action crime thriller film Dirty Harry, the first in a series of four films. Dirty Harry is critized for its portrayal of women and gives rise to a discussion about police brutality, victims’ rights and the nature of law enforcement.


Despite his image as a western hero and impersonation of Dirty Harry, Eastwood speaks out in support of gun control by registration. --- In Breezy (1973), Eastwood deals with a romantic relationship between a middle-aged man and a teenage girl.


Eastwood proclaims his participation in Transcendental Meditation, a meditation method founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. --- In the same year, Eastwood leaves Universal Studios to make an agreement with Warner Brothers.


In Eastwood’s military drama Heartbreak Ridge about the 1983 United States invasion of Grenada, Eastwood plays Thomas Highway, a veteran of the Korean War and Vietnam War.

Early 1990s

Author Nick Schenk, packaging VHS tapes at a factory in Bloomington, Minnesota, meets Hmong workers and learns about their culture.


With his 1992 American revisionist Western film Unforgiven, produced and directed by Clint Eastwood and written by David Webb Peoples, Eastwood receives two Academy Awards. Eastwood plays William Munny, an aging killer who takes on a last job years after he had settled down as a farmer.


Eastwood’s boxing drama Million Dollar Baby wins four Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Eastwood plays an aging boxing coach who seeks to overcome his past mistakes by helping an underdog amateur boxer achieve her dream of becoming a professional.


Eastwood directs two films about the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II. In Flags of Our Fathers he portrays the men who raised the American flag on the island after defeating the Japanese. Its successor, Letters from Iwo Jima, deals with the tactics of the Japanese soldiers on the island and the letters they wrote home to their families.


Producer Bill Gerber, having received Schenk’s script for Gran Torino through a friend, sets up a meeting with Rob Lorenz and Clint Eastwood. The actor and director is interested, but decides to finish another project before taking up work on Gran Torino.


July: The shooting of Gran Torino begins in Detroit and lasts for about five weeks. – Fall: Nick Schenk’s script, originally set in Minnesota, is named “Best Screenplay” by the National Board of Review. –December 9th: First release in Burbank, California. --- December 12th: Gran Torino is released in the USA. --- December 17th: Gran Torino is rated by the British Board of Film Classification as containing “strong language and violence”, the film being classified as “suitable only for 15 years and over”.


March 3rd: German premiere of Gran Torino. --- June 9th: Gran Torino is released in the United States in both standard DVD format and Blu-ray. --- Eastwood who described himself in 1999 as “a social liberal and a fiscal conservative” registers with the Libertarian Party. As a libertarian, Eastwood has endorsed liberal ideal like the Equal Rights Amendment for women and gay marriage. He has also expressed his support for pro-choice on abortion, incentives for renewable energy production, and gun control.


Detroit Hmong filmmakers Mark D. Lee and Cedric N. Lee release their documentaryGran Torino: Next Dooron Blu-ray. --- Gran Torino is named Best Foreign Film at the César Awards in France. --- In Eastwood’s fantasy drama film Hereafter, a factory worker can communicate with the dead. As for his religious views, Eastwood has voiced his disbelief in God as early as 1973 but expresses his sympathy for free forms of spirituality and Buddhism in particular.


Eastwood supports Republican candidate Mitt Romney in the presidential election and makes his first public address at the Republican National Convention. However, he has variously endorsed Democratic candidates in earlier years.


Eastwood’s 2014 movie American Sniper about the highly decorated sniper Chris Kyle is celebrated (and criticized) as a pro-War on Terror movie – much to Eastwood’s dismay who calls it the “biggest antiwar statement” a movie could possibly make.


Classroom Activities

  • Analyze a film still / a scene!
  • Watch a film without sound and write down the dialogue!
  • Make a spoof for a scene from Gran Torino!
  • Produce your own version of Gran Torino!
  • Characterize Walt / Thao / Sue!
  • Compare Walt and Thao / Walt’s confession to Father Janovich and to Thao in the basement scene!
  • Create a film poster for Gran Torino!
  • Why isn’t Walt at peace with himself?
  • Write a eulogy for Walt!
  • Compare Gran Torino to Eastwood’s American Sniper!
  • Watch Gran Torino in fast forward mode!
  • Watch a scene and find visual elements that help you to identify a typical American suburban setting!
  • Do consecutive interpreting for a scene from Gran Torino!
  • Create a character map highlighting how the characters are connected!
  • Do a roleplay and include the main characters / the makers of the movie!
  • Play buzzword bingo with a scene from Gran Torino!
  • Act out a scene from the movie!
  • Do a ranking of the characters with regard to status / power / sociability...!
  • Make a storyboard for particular scenes!
  • Put film stills in chronological orders!
  • Do a research about the Korean War / Hmong people / Detroit and present your findings to a partner!


Discussion Questions

  • How is Thao drawn into his cousin Spider’s gang?
  • What makes him an easy victim?
  • Why is the movie named “Gran Torino”?
  • Is Walt Kowalski a racist? If so, what makes him a racist?
  • What is the function of mirrors in Gran Torino?
  • Where can you see moments of symmetry in the movie?
  • What is Walt’s position in his own family?
  • What makes the Hmong depicted in the movie different from the American mainstream (if there is one)? What makes them American?
  • Is the movie itself racist?
  • How is masculinity represented in Gran Torino?
  • What is the message behind Gran Torino?
  • In how far has Walt’s life changed compared to a moment twenty years before?
  • How does Thao / Walt develop in the course of the movie?
  • Was it really necessary for Walt to resort to violence?
  • Is Walt a hero?
  • Can Walt be seen as a “true follower of Christ”, giving his life for others?
  • What makes Walt change his mind towards the Hmong?
  • Should Gran Torino have been awarded an Academy Award?
  • In how far is religion / spirituality important in Gran Torino?
  • What would a German (Italian / Chinese / Indian) version of Gran Torino look like?
  • Since the protagonists are male, is it a macho movie?


Parallels between “Gran Torino” (2008) and “American Sniper” (2014)

  • Violence seems justified in self-defense or to protect another person: Kyle’s father tells his boys neither to become a predator nor a ”sheep” and explains to them it was legitimate to stop an attack by using brute force; Walt attacks a member of the Hmong gang to prevent further assaults on Thao and Sue’s family.
  • The protagonists have served in the American military; Kyle as a sniper with the Navy Seals, Walt is a veteran of the war in Korea.
  • Racism is a common topic: in American Sniper, there is a drill sergeant who claims that African Americans couldn’t swim; in “Gran Torino”, Walt makes several racist remaks.
  • Both movies depict tests of masculinity and gender-affirmative behavior: Chris is a rodeo rider and identifies strongly with his virility; Walt teaches Thao how to converse like a “real man”.
  • Guns appear as symbols of control and power: As long as the protagonists are armed, they are in full control of the situation and keep the upper hand over their opponents.
  • In both movies, the protagonists suffer from a posttraumatic stress disorder; Kyle cannot find his way back into his normal family life; Walt lies in his bed fully clothed as if he could be called to action any time.
  • A young priest challenges both protagonists with ethical questions: Chris’s friend Marc Lee has studied theology before joining the SEALs, and at one point, he starts a conversation with Kyle about religious issues; in Gran Torino, Father Janovich questions Walt’s decision to take revenge.
  • Both protagonists take things in their own hands without consulting with others; Kyle decides to join the Marines in a house search (which is against his orders); Walt makes his last decision to confront the gang without informing anyone.
  • In both movies, it is shown how retaliation (the “lex talionis”) leads into a vicious circle of violence.
  • Both protagonists are shot without defense while helping others: While Kyle’s death is only mentioned in an insert he is shot by another traumatized veteran he was trying to “help”, Walt sacrifices himself to get all the gang members behind bars.



Dorothy Kowalski

(not appearing)

Dorothy Kowalski has passed away before the movie sets in with her funeral. One of the mourners calls her “a real peach” (1, p. 1), but we don’t get any more details about Dorothy. Before her death, she must have urged Father Janovich to get in Walt to make a confession – Walt finally gives in. It seems as if Walt misses his late wife; after he’s “kicked out” his son’s family on his birthday, he looks at his wedding photo which he still carries in his wallet (40, p. 46).

Walt Kowalski

(Clint Eastwood)

Walt Kowalski is the only fully developed character in the script and gets a major share of the total screen time. The script introduces him as follows: “Walt Kowalski looks young for his age. He has slate blue eyes, [is] physically fit and has had the same buzz cut hairstyle since getting out of the military in 1953. Walt is also a perfectionist. Nothing escapes his hawklike eyes, eyes that pierce and judge” (1, p. 1). Later on, he is directly characterized in the script as “full-blown, unrepentant racist” (p. 6) which becomes obvious by the multitude of racist remarks he makes all throughout the movie. Contrary to what his own sons seem to assume, he is able and willing to learn and to act according to his newly gained insights. His relations with his family are conceivably bad. Walt expresses his distaste for or anger about them on various occasions and has done so in the past as well. Even his sons ignore his positive character traits and view him as an embittered and stubborn old man unable to cope with the fact that things have changed. His only companion is his “very, very old DOG” Daisy. Apparently, he has lost his appetite for life and expresses his disgust and tedium by spitting: “Walt spits in the snow”, 6, p. 6). According to Karen, his daughter in law, he has “worked at a Ford plant for twenty-eight years” (p. 10), probably as a mechanic, which would explain why he owns a large collection of tools in his garage and why he is rather handy repairing things. Walt is a person who prefers regularity over disorder and tends to be extremely accurate if not pedantic when he has a job to do: He “meticulously mows his lawn” (96, p. 104) which is “painstakingly maintained” (30, p. 28). Although he doesn’t seem to have much respect for the church and Father Janovich in particular, one can tell by the way he curses that he still thinks in Catholic terms: “Jesus, Joseph and Mary” (50, p. 59). Walt is fatally ill – he coughs up blood om various instances throughout the movie, starting from the funeral service in the first few scenes of Gran Torino. In addition, there are repeated allusions to Walt’s age and ill health (“Walt walks stiffly, 87, p. 95); he is frequently addressed as “old man” (by Sue, Spider, Smokie, the black gangbanger, and Tao).His traumatic time in Korea has left a strong feeling of guilt – Walt has killed at least 13 people in combat: “Thirteen for sure. Probably more” (100, p. 108). This feeling of guilt makes it plausible why he feels obliged to give his life for the Hmong community. His past as a soldier might also help to explain why he seems permanently alert of what is happening around him and doesn’t even undress when he lies down in his bed to sleep. Walt does not so much suffer from having to kill but from wanting to kill: “The thing that haunts a guy is the stuff he wasn't ordered to do” (34, p. 35). In his script, Schenk is very critical of his hero: “Walt solves every situation by being aggressive” (36, p. 37). Walt’s policy is to react quickly (which he learned in Korea) and to ask questions later. It is one of the challenges in Walt’s quest to overcome his aggressiveness – he finally masters his challenge and dies unarmed, sacrificing himself for the Hmong community and his own peace of mind. Labelling him as an Angry White Man doesn’t do Walt justice and falls short of his development throughout the movie.

Steve Kowalski

(Brian Howe)

Steve, Walt’s younger son, lives “out of state” (71, p. 74) and doesn’t seem to care much for his father. He doesn’t believe his father can still develop and thinks Walt is stuck in the past: “What do you expect? Dad’s still living in the ‘50s” (1, p. 1). Steve’s sons, Josh, Daniel and David Kowalski, are only briefly mentioned when they find Walt’s Silver Star and “box of old Korea War photos” in the basement (4, 3).

Mitch and Karen Kowalski

(Brian Haley and Geraldine Hughes)

Mitch Kowalski, Walt’s older son and a well-off car dealer who lives in a “huge, modern suburban house” (25, p. 24) with his wife and their daughter Ashley, doesn’t seem too close with his father and sees him as problem that needs to be handled: “What are we going to do with him?” (p. 1, p. 1). When asked for help (or when help would be appropriate), Mitch refuses to assist his father, leaving him with an untidy house after the funeral feast (9, p. 9) and, somewhat later, with a heavy freezer. Karen, his wife, seems more understanding and defends her father-in-law against her husband’s criticism (“Well, what do you expect? The man worked at a Ford plant for twenty-eight years”, 10, p. 10). However, Mitch feels guilty for not rising to his father’s expectations, saying: “And I suppose that's my goddamned fault?” (10, p. 10). Obviously, it’s Karen who wrote and signed Walt’s birthday card: “ALL the signatures have been written in a woman's cursive style and with the same pen” (40, p. 43). Karen and Mitch fail to see that Walt feels useful and effective as long as he can work around the house – which leads to a dramatic scene when Walt throws them out after Karen suggests he might move to “these communities where you don’t have to worry about mowing the lawn or shoveling snow” (39, p. 44). During their second phone, Mitch pretends to be busy and cuts his father short.

Ashley Kowalski

(Dreama Walker)

Ashley’s character embodies the stereotypical teenager who is unwilling to share her time with her family, wears a piercing and a belly top, uses annoying buzzwords and fillers (“like”), polishes her nails during her grandmother’s funeral service, is a cellphone addict and feels constantly bored: “How long do we have to stay, this ghetto is a dead zone for my cell and I’m bored” (5, p. 5). Obviously, Ashley can’t wait until her grandfather dies so that she can have his Gran Torino and his “super cool retro couch” (5, p. 5). Ashley is apparently a flat character, rather a caricature representing a generation that is criticized for being selfish and superficial, especially in contrast with Sue, who is respectful, caring and thoughtful even if she teases Walt every now and again, calling him “Wally” and making fun of his ignorance of “Hu-Mong” culture.

Father Janovich

(Christopher Carley)

Characterized by Walt as “a boy who is fresh out of the seminary” (p. 8), Father Janovich is in fact one of the characters in the movie that appear in a rather positive light. The second time they meet, Walt becomes even more abusive than during their first brief encounter, calling Janovich “an overeducated, 27-year-old virgin who holds the hands of superstitious old women and promises them eternity”. When Janovich comes to see Walt at the veteran’s club to confront him with his trauma, he wins Walt’s respect: “I'm impressed. You came with your guns loaded, for once” (33, p. 34). At first, Father Janovich is not allowed to call Walt by his first name. Only later, when he shows his compassion and shares Walt’s feelings for Tao’s family, he is allowed to call him Walt (93, p. 102). Father Janovich seems to do street work with the Hmong gangs and has heard about the nightly attack on Walt’s and the Hmong’s homes – as a man of the church, he wants to settle the conflict or at least protect Walt. His interest in and care for Walt is so intense that he leaves the fixed procedure of a confession to ask Walt for his plans. Despite his efforts with the police, he cannot prevent the shooting nor save Walt’s life. But contrary to his first eulogy for Dorothy, he finds the right words for Walt: ”I knew really nothing about life or death until I got to know Walt. And boy, did I learn” (109, p. 119).

Tao Vang Lor

(Bee Vang)

Next to Walt, sixteen-year-old Tao is the most complex character in the movie. The script describes him as follows: “TAO is slight, he has long hair, long lashes, but is very good-looking – like an Asian Johnny Depp” (p. 8). Despite his attractiveness, he is shy and has little confidence in himself which is why he doesn’t respond to Wa Xam’s flirting. Whereas Tao is the only male member of the Lor family (Tao’s father is absent), he has rather low position in the Lors’ informal hierarchy, ignored by the male members of the Hmong community and scolded by his grandmother Phong for “washing dishes like a woman” (10, p. 11). Despite his initial reluctance to join Smokie’s gang (“he flies solo”, 16, p. 17), he is finally pressured by his cousin Spider into an attempt to steal Walt’s Gran Torino. Tao also doesn’t defend himself when he gets bullied a the Latino gang (14, p. 12). Although he seems to be clever and resourceful, Tao doesn’t know how to use them to move ahead and has no clear plan what to do with his life. His sister Sue makes this clear in a conversation with Walt who at first doesn’t respect Tao, calling him “Toad: “Tao is actually really bright, he just doesn’t know which direction to go in” (38, p. 42). Walt seems to change his opinion of Tao when he sees him help an elderly neighbor picking up her groceries (38, p. 43) even though Walt doesn’t change his behavior towards Tao and points out a little later: “You have no teeth, kid. That’s your problem. You have no ball” (p. 51, 54). Nonetheless, Walt has accepted his responsibility to take care of Tao. This may be the reason for Walt’s intervention when he sees how Tao fails to react to Wa Xam (p. 56, 48), even before he clearly accept his mission as Tao’s mentor and makes him renovation work for the community (55-58). It becomes rather evident from the script that working for Walt has benefited Tao’s self-esteem: “Tao rubs his hands with a smile. This has been the first time Tao has really risen to a task presented to him” (59, p. 63). Time after time, Tao learns to appreciate his elderly neighbor, taking his advice and accepting further instructions. Moreover, he is worried when he sees Walt coughing up some blood and recommends him seeing a doctor (69, p. 71) and later on insists that Walt quit smoking (75, p. 80). Whereas Mitch as Walt’s natural son finds a rather lame excuse for not helping his father with a bulky freezer, it’s Tao who jumps in and thus symbolically becomes Walt’s adopted son (73, p. 75). Interestingly, Tao also asks Walt about his relationship with Mitch: “Does your son come over much?” (76, p. 81). Walt doesn’t respond. In his efforts, to “man [Tao] up a bit” (p. 82, 76), he takes him to Martin the Barber and teaches Tao rather successfully to “speak like a man” which leads to his being employed as a construction worker. To further support his young friend, Walt buys him a tool belt at the local hardware store (81, p. 89). When gang leader Smokie squeezes a burning cigarette into Tao’s face (81, p. 91), Walt decides to confront Smokie – which again results in a drive-by shooting, Sue being raped and eventually Walt’s death. Even before Walt locks him up in the basement to protect him, Tao has become so close with his fatherly friend that it’s not Father Janovich but Tao who listens to Walt’s confession about his deeds in Korea (106, p. 108). He has become Walt’s “friend” (109, p. 117) and inherits Walt’s Gran Torino: “And to my friend, Tao Vang Lor, I leave my 1972 Gran Torino” (112, p. 119).


(Chee Thao)

Phong is Tao’s grandmother and quite skeptical if not hostile to their neighbor, Walt. The oldest person in the family, she takes the liberty to criticize her grandson Tao for not being masculine enough.


(Sonny Vue)

Smokie is the gang leader of the Hmong gang (p. 15). The way he reacts to Sue is a first hint that it might have been Smokie who has raped Sue while she is at her aunt’s house (“Smokie takes off his sunglasses and smiles at Sue”, 19, p. 17, “I got my eye on you too, little girl”, 19, p. 17). It is also Smokie who exerts pressure on Tao to join his gang and attacks him when he refuses to make another attempt stealing Walt’s Gran Torino. Besides his machoism, Smokie is calculating and violent, threatening Walt, searing Tao with his cigarette and robbing him of his newly purchased tools: “You and everything you have is mine. I own you” (81, p. 91). When Walt takes revenge for what Smokie has done to Tao, he “kicks him hard in the ribs” (83, p. 94). Finally, after Smokie and his gangbangers have shot Walt, they are arrested (109, p. 117).


(Doua Moua)

Spider”, whose real name is Fong, is Tao and Sue’s cousin and a member of the Hmong gang. He is not more than Smokie’s assistant and steps back when the gang leader chimes in.


(Ahney Her)

Sue is Tao’s sister. According to the script, “Sue is seventeen, has long straight hair with red highlights” (19, p. 17). While she doesn’t show any fear towards the Hmong gangbangers and even attacks them to help Tao, she gets beaten up and probably raped by Smokie and his gang. Contrary to her brother, she is very confident if not even brash: She insults Smokie and even the “Tall Black Guy” harassing her (“Great, another asshole with a fetish for Asian girls” (36, p. 37). Sue is also rather eloquent and witty, expressing herself more sophisticatedly than anyone else in the movie (“stereotype thesaurus”, “savior complex”). This is why she talks for her mother, Vu, who doesn’t speak any English, and for Tao, whenever he feels too shy to speak for himself.


(Brooke Chia Thao)

Vu is Sue and Tao’s mother. She’s the one who feels that Tao has “dishonored the family and now he has to work off his debt” (51, p. 58).

Darrell, Mel

(Davis Gloff, Thomas D. Mahard)

Darrell and Mel are Walt’s drinking companions and fellow VFW members.

Martin the Barber

(John Carroll Lynch)

Martin the Barber appears thrice in the movie: The first scene shows Martin in a friendly situation with Walt whose hair has been cutting in his barbershop; in the second scene, Martin is Walt’s sidekick as Tao’s masculinity coach – the training takes place in his barber’s shop. Martin is of Italian descent, engaging in coarse but friendly banter with Walt who calls him a “dumb, Italian-Wop-Dago” (35, p. 35). In the last scene, he gives Walt his first straight shave in years (97, p. 104), not knowing he is preparing his friend for his self-sacrifice. .

Kor Khue

(Xia Soua Chang)

Kor Khue is the Lors’ family shaman (44, p. 50), identified as “witch doctor” by Walt. Kor Khue has a keen interest in Walt and wants to “read” him. His interpretation of Walt’s situation is rather adequate: “you think you’ve been disrespected. You do not live your life. Your food has no flavor. You are scared of your past […]You stopped living years and years ago […] you’re not at peace” (44, p. 50-51). It takes all the following incidents until Walt can say to Father Janovich: “I am at peace” (99, p. 107).

Wa Xam / Youa

(Choua Kue)

Wa Xam is a rather pretty girl Walt meets at the Hmong party; she seems to be flirting with Tao who doesn’t react.


(Maykao K. Lytongpao)

Gee is one of the three women who bring Walt some Hmong food just after he has received another flower bouquet (57, p. 50).

Dr. Fellman

(not appearing)

Dr. Fellman is Walt’s former doctor who has retired three years before Walt wants to see him at the doctor’s office. He has been replaced by an Asian, Dr. Chang.

Dr. Chang / Dr. Chu

(Julia Ho)

Dr. Chang, “a short Asian man in a doctor’s smock” (63, p. 64), is the successor of Dr. Fellman, Walt’s former physician.

Aunt Mary

(not appearing)

Aunt Mary is an eighty-one years old relative of Walt. It’s her who is supposed to get the freezer Walt is trying to move.

Tim Kennedy

(William Hill)

Tim Kennedy is the superintendent of a construction site near Walt and Tao’s neighborhood.

Betty Jablonski

(not appearing)

Betty Jablonski is one of Walt’s co-workers he confesses having kissed “at the work Christmas party” in 1968 (100, p. 106).


(Scott Eastwood)

Just like Ashley, Trey represents the younger generation, being a caricature rather than a rounded character. The script introduces Trey as Sue’s “ridiculous Wigger (urban white kid) boyfriend” (37, p. 37). When his girlfriend is harassed, he tries to act cool in a rather clumsy way by using some street slang – however, he is not taken seriously. When Walt steps in and saves them, he doesn’t even shake hands with Trey, taunting him: “Go home, clown... and pull up your goddamned pants” (37, p. 39).



attaboy (diom)

A slang phrase condensed from “that a boy” which is normally said to express that someone has done a good job – in this case, Father Janovich seems to have made a good choice by ordering a gin tonic rather than a diet coke (21, p. 20).

badger (n)

A “badger” is a black and white mammal short thick legs, about the size of a dog. It is usually found in woodland areas and popularly known to be rather stubborn and persistent. The term “to badger someone” means to bother or annoy (someone) with many comments or questions.

beetle juice (n)

Betel (not: “beetle”) leaf is mostly consumed in Asia, and elsewhere in the world by some Asian emigrants, as betel quid or in paan, with Areca nut or tobacco.

bend over

The phrase “to bend over” means to get ready to get cheated (derived from the same origin as in “to get screwed” or “to be fucked”).

big mick (n)

Mick” is a derogatory term for Irish people and Irish Americans (like Tim Kennedy, in Gran Torino). In this particular scene Walt may be punning, since “big wig” is a humorous way to refer to an important person.

big time (idiom)

Big time” is a slang term which means “to a large extent” or “in a large scale”; here, it means “for a very long time”.

bitch about (v)

If you continuously complain about something or somebody, you “bitch about”.

blow it (idiom)

If you “blow it”, you lose or miss an opportunity or fail in an important task.

bravado (n)

Bravado” (from French, with a Spanish suffix) is blustering swaggering conduct.

broad (n)

Broad” is a slightly old-fashioned and often offensive slang term for women.

chink (n)

Chink” is a racist term used to describe the Chinese.

choke chain (n)

A “choke chain” is a collar that may be tightened as a noose and that is used to control aggressive dogs.

choptop (v)

A “chop top” is a hard-top car that has had its roof lowered in an attempt to reduce the frontal profile of a car and increase its speed potential. The verb used in Gran Torino (in Walt’s will) describes the activity of customizing a car in such a way.

cocky (adj)

Someone who is “cocky” is boldly or brashly self-confident (29).

coffin nails (n)

Coffin nails” is a sarcastic phrase meaning “cigarettes”.

corny (adj)

The adjective “corny” refers to something old-fashioned, fairly simple and sentimental, containing nothing new, often with reference to books or films. With regard to jokes, it means “repeated so often that it (0 the joke) ceased to be funny”.

cringe (v)

To “cringe” is to feel embarrassed or to move away from someone abruptly because you are frightened

deer in the headlights (idiom)

The idiom “deer in the headlights” refers to a mental state of arousal or perplexity caused by fear, panic, surprise or confusion; it is derived from the impression drivers might get from deer get caught in the headlights of cars.


Somebody who is “dumbfounded” has been confounded and put to shame.

egg roll (n)

An egg roll or spring roll is a very thin flat piece of crispy dough that is wrapped around a mixture of chopped vegetables and often meat, usually fried, often served in Chinese restaurants; here, the term is used by Walt to provoke Tao.

eyesore (n)

An “eyesore” is something offensive to view, like (in this case) a derelict or run-down building.

faggy (adj)

The adjective “faggy”, derived from the derogatory term “faggot” for male homosexuals, is commonly used to describe effeminate men or anything poor taste that suits the speaker’s idea of something a homosexual would like.

fish head (n)

Fish head” is a racist slur for an Asian person, especially from Eastern Asia.

for the love of Pete (idiom)

For the love of Pete” is a mild oath of shock, exasperation, annoyance, frustration, or anger, with “Pete” being a euphemistic substitution for “God”.

fuck with s.o. (v)

“To fuck with someone” is a slang expression for messing with someone.

gangbanger (n)

A “gangbanger” is a person belonging to a street gang.

glutton (n)

A “glutton” is a person who eats and drinks more than they need.

goofball (n)

A “goofball” is slightly insane, ridiculous person.

gook (n)

Gook” is a highly offensive term for people with a South-East Asian background, in this sense used by the two Latinos in the blue Chevy to insult and provoke Tao (p. 13) and later on by Walt to describe the Lor family (46, p. 51).

gopher (n)

A “gopher” or “gopher grabber” is a tool which enables elderly people or people with a disability to reach items on high shelves or pick up items off the ground.

impunity (n)

“Impunity” means freedom from punishment, harm, or loss — usually used in the phrase (to commit a crime) “with impunity”, i. e. without being punished.

Italian-Wop-Dago (n)

When Walt calls Martin the Barber an “Italian-Wop-Dago “, he combines two insulting and contemptuous term for a person of Italian birth or descent, “dago” and “wop”.

jackass (n)

Originally a male donkey, the word “jackass” is used to describe a rather stupid person (an idiot).

jew out (v)

The phrase “to jew out” is derived from the anti-Semitic stereotype of the shrewd Jewish businessman and describes any kind of cheating, rip-off or fraud.

jittery (adj)

Someone who is “jittery” is extremely nervous or even feels a sense of panic.

like gangbusters (idiom)

The phrase “come in or go over like gangbusters” is derived from an exciting radio show aired in 1936 and broadcast until the 1950s. Here, it is used to indicate that Walt’s jokes are extremely successful with the elderly Hmong ladies.

Mee-Khah (n, adj)

Mee-kah” is a corrupted form of “American” used in Hmong American. This phrase is used by Phong in the script: “All the Mee-Khah left in the neighborhood should just move away” (p. 16).

midget (n)

A “midget” is a very small person and especially one of unusually small size.

my old lady (idiom)

The phrase “my old lady” is a jocular form of referring to one’s wife, commonly in all-male company.

nail s.o. (v)

Just like its synonym “to screw someone”, “to nail someone” has two meanings: either, to penetrate someone with your penis, or to rip someone off.

nip (n)

“Nip” is an offensive term for a Japanese person, derived from the Japanese name for Japan (Nippon).

not to give two shits (idiom)

Saying that you “don’t give two shits” is an exaggerated (slangy) form of saying you don’t care.

old hag (n)

A “hag” (Middle English: hagge) was originally a female demon; nowadays, it refers to an ugly, untidy, or evil-looking old woman.

pipe down (v)

Originally a naval expression, “to pipe down” means to stop talking or making noise.

prick (n)

 “Prick” is a slang term for “penis”, or a very bad or unpleasant (male) person.

puke (n)

While the verb “to puke” means “to throw up”, the noun “puke” refers to the substance that comes out of your mouth when you vomit – a “puke” is somebody who makes you throw up; Walt uses this term to emphasize that he feels disgusted by the Hmong gang members that are trying to intimidate Tao.

pull the plug (idiom)

If you “pull the plug”, you end an activity after considerable time to move somewhere else.

pussy (n), pusscake (n)

A “pussy” or “puss-cake” is a weak or cowardly man or boy; the word is derived from a common nickname given to cats (and not from the vulgar word for female genitals).

rice paddy (n)

A “rice paddy” is a rice field. The phrase is used by a Latino gang member (p. 16) with reference to Tao.

rocket science (idiom)

It ain’t rocket science” is a way to emphasize that something is fairly simple or at least not as difficult as one would have thought.

shrimp-dicked (adj)

If you call someone “shrimp-dicked”, you’re saying his penis is the size of a shrimp – which is of course is a very rude insult. The expression is connected to the phrase “to have no balls” and may also imply the target person of this slur behaves “unmanly” or cowardly.

Slick (n)

A “slick” is someone who continually embarrasses themselves and others with ignorant and inappropriate behavior. This term originated with the military (as an abbreviation of “slick-sleeves” referring to an E-1 or lowest rank in the military). It was commonly used by a drill sergeant before he had learned the recruits’ names.

slope (n)

The derogatory term “slope” is used for people of Asian descent, derived from the slopes of their eyes.

smooth sailing (idiom)

Smooth sailing” is a idiom that indicates easy progress without impediment or difficulty (25).

spick (n)

“Spick” is a derogatory term for Hispanic people, used by Spider (p. 16, 17)

spooked (adj)

Someone who is “spooked” is scared, bewildered, and extremely nervous.

stick out like sore thumb (idiom)

The idiomatic expression “stick out like a sore thumb” means to be very noticeable because of being unusual or inappropriate.

swamp rat (n)

A “swamp rat” is an offensive term for anyone considered filthy or ugly; the term is also applied in to a skinny Asian person, commonly in a derogative manner.

thesaurus (n)

A “thesaurus” is a type of dictionary in which words with similar meanings are arranged in groups.

Toad (n)

In Gran Torino, a corrupted form of Tao’s name; the term “toad” refers to frog-like amphibians with shorter hind limbs and a rather dry, warty skin; as a slur, it can be applied to everything contemptible.

tranny (n)

In mechanics, the word “tranny” refers to a vehicle’s transmission (and not to a transvestite).

tricked-out (adj)

A vehicle that is “tricked out” has been modified with various parts that are not exactly legal.

trippin’ (adj)

The adjective “tripping” means extremely exciting and is derived from the sensations usually experienced through the use of psychedelic drugs.

unnerving (adj)

Something that is “unnerving” causes you to become nervous.

usher (v)

To “usher” someone means to escort someone or to show someone where to go.

white devil

A “white devil” is usually a white person who takes advantage of a minority or oppresses people with a different racial background. The term was coined among the Chinese during the Colonial period.

white-trash hillbilly (idiom)

The phrase “white-trash”, disparaging and offensive, refers to a member of an inferior or underprivileged white social group who lives in a trailer park; a “hillbilly” is a person from a backwoods area, usually somewhat out of touch with modern culture.

wigger (n)

The word “wigger” (“white” + “nigger”) refers to a usually young white person whose clothing, language, and manners seem to imitate those that are stereotypically associated with African Americans.

zipper head, zip (n)

Zip” or “zipper head” ( p. 9 e. a. l.) is a derogatory term for Korean soldiers coined during the Korean war by frontline troops. When the corpses of Koreans got run over by U.S. army vehicles, the tires of jeeps left a zipper-like pattern.



Angry white male

In the early 2000s, the label “Angry white male” has been attached to male Americans that see themselves in total opposition to the rise of liberal, anti-discriminatory policies and attitudes. Angry white males share conservative if not reactionary convictions. Typically, they have animosities against young people, the LBGT community, feminists and often Jewish people. Often, angry white males are middle class but drifting into social decline. As they fear being outnumbered by immigrants, they hold on to traditional, patriarchal values and keep struggling with an America that becomes more and more hybrid, polycentric and pluralistic. In so far, Walt can well be described as an “angry white male” – at least in the beginning of the movie, when he solves his problems with violence, deplores the changes in his surroundings and presents himself as a racist. The movie takes an optimistic stance towards the “angry white male” phenomenon: While he is getting closer to the Hmong community, Walt undergoes a dramatic change and seems more accepting. However, the movie doesn’t dismiss complete set of Walt’s traditional values – he remains a conservative, but he can see that the real threat to his morals is not a pluralist society but ignorance and selfishness.


The Beatitudes (p. 3) are eight blessings recounted by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew. Each is a proverb-like proclamation, without narrative. In this context, the Beatitudes are sung for consolation: “Blessed are those who mourn, / for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). In a wider context, the Beatitudes with their promises of future blessings can be interpreted as a kind of guideline for Walt. In these first scenes in church, Walt seems inaccessible, misanthropic and intolerant – he is not yet ready to understand the teachings that ring in his ears while the choir sings the Beatitudes.


In Gran Torino, Walt has a pet dog named Daisy which is played by a yellow Labrador named Holly. According to the American Humane Society, “[c]ast and crew members were introduced to the dog and instructed on her proper handling before filming began. […] Throughout the film, Daisy is seen both on- and off-leash, lying around the house and porch, walking with Walt through the house and yard, and on the sidewalk in front of the house. For this mild action, a trainer placed the dog on her mark and then stood off-camera, using a combination of verbal cues and hand signals to get her to look or walk in a certain direction, or to stay, stand or lay down”.


While the script is set in Minnesota, Eastwood chose Detroit as the location for Gran Torino. All of the shooting took place in the Detroit metropolitan area, at Highland Park, Center Line, Royal Oak, and Grosse Pointe Park. Walt’s house is on 38 Rhode Island Street in Highland Park. The house used by the Hmong gang (which is also the place where Walt gets killed) is located on Pilgrim Street in Highland Park. Walt's son Mitch resides on Ballantyne Road in Grosse Pointe Shores. The church scenes were shot at Saint Ambrose Roman Catholic Church in Grosse Pointe Park. The hardware store where Walt purchases some work equipment for Tao, Pointe Hardware, is also in Grosse Pointe Park. VFW Post 6756 was used as the location where Walt meets friends for a drink is in Center Line. The barber shop, Widgren’s Barber Shop, is along 11 Mile Road, near Center Street, in Royal Oak. Another location is 13140 Charlevoix St (which is where Walt confronts the three black males). Detroit, with 4.3 million people the largest city in Michigan, was chosen for several reasons. Firstly, Detroit has a long-standing problem with gang-related offenses and fairly high homicide rates. Secondly, it is home to a large percentage of Americans with a Polish background. Thirdly, there is a large community of Hmong in Detroit, and fourthly, it has seen dramatic economic and social changes caused by the decline of Detroit’s automobile industry. Another more practical reason might have been tax incentives for filmmakers willing to shoot a movie in Detroit. Nonetheless, the movie could be set in just any American city with the same chances and problems – despite various references to this particular locality, Detroit is not more than a placeholder in Gran Torino.

Ding Dong, Click Clack, Charlie Chan

While the first two terms, “Ding Dong” and “Click Clack”, p. 56) are onomatopoetic names (“ding-dong” being the sound of doorbells), Charlie Chan is a fictional Chinese-American detective created by the American author Earl Derr Biggers. Charlie Chan, who is portrayed as clever, heroic and honorable character, became popular with the 1931 TV series.

Dragon Lady

A Dragon Lady (Walt: “Hand me a beer, Dragon Lady”, p. 78) is a North American stereotype of Asian and Southeast Asian women as tough, domineering, or mysterious; it may be derived from the Dragon Lady, a cartoon character that first appears in Milton Caniff’s comic strip Terry and the Pirates.

Get off my lawn.

Walt may well be aiming his gun at the Hmong fighting in his foreyard, but he is very unlikely to shoot them. In most states (and Michigan is one of them), the use of deadly force (in this case, by means of a rifle) must be in response to reasonable fear of serious, imminent bodily harm to oneself or others. Contrary to common belief, trespassing alone is not enough to resort to such drastic measures. The famous scene where Walt points a rifle at the Hmong gang and says "get off my lawn" might be a possible homage to Eastwood's 1978 film Every Which Way But Loose in which Ruth Gordon's character points a rifle at the Black Widow gang and says “get off my porch.”

Gran Torino

The Ford Torino was produced by Ford for the North American market between 1968 and 1976 – Walt’s car is a 1972 Ford Gran Torino Sport 2-Door Sports Roof in Dark Metallic Green with a 351C 2V engine with Cobra Jet Heads, and Magnum 500 Wheels. However, Gran Torinos were built in Lorain, Ohio, 145 miles from Detroit. Walt’s truck could have been built in Wayne, Michigan, twenty miles from Highland Park. The Gran Torino does not only reflect Walt’s pride in his work at the Ford Company, it also stands for “good old America” and its glorious past (before Toyota entered the market). Its function in the movie is to trigger the action and connecting Walt and Tao, but also to characterize Walt as a pedantic (but also responsible) person. For Tao, it’s a symbol of the American Dream – highly visible and seemingly unattainable.

Hail Mary, full of grace

Shortly before Walt gets shot (108, p. 116), he quotes the words “Hail Mary, full of grace” which form the first line of the Hail Mary or Ave Maria, a prayer spoken in Catholic tradition as part of the rosary. After the two salutations (the Angelic Salutation and the Evangelical Salutation), the speaker addresses St. Mary: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, / pray for us sinners, / now and at the hour of our death. Amen.” It becomes evident that Walt is preparing to die.


The Hmong are an ethnic minority in Northern Vietnam and Laos. A large number of Hmong refugees arrived in the US after the invasion of the Royal Kingdom of Laos by the Vietnam People’s Army, beginning in December 1975. Today, there is an estimated number of more than 280,000 Hmong or Hmong Americans in the U.S. Though their living conditions seem to improve, the Hmong in the U.S. are still inflicted with lack of education, poverty, gang violence, mental health issues, and racial discrimination. Measured by U.S. standards, Hmong have comparably high drop-out rates. Oppressive gender roles worsen the situation of Hmong women. In Gran Torino, all Hmong characters are played by Hmong actors, some of them had only little acting experience. Open casting calls for Hmong actors were held in Hmong communities in Detroit, Michigan, in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and in Fresno, California. While Ahney Her (Sue) went to school in Lansing, MI, Bee Vang (Tao) and Sonny Vue (Spider) were born in Fresno , CA, and Thailand-born Doua Moua (Spider) is from Minnesota. Some insight into the historical framework of the movie helps to understand the Hmong side of the story. For instance, Phong, Sue and Tao’s grandmother, seems prejudiced against Walt, until she finally uncovers the reason for her hostility towards the “white devil”: “Back home, white soldiers came to our villages and filled our young men’s minds with ideas of glory. Then you’d lead them away to their deaths” (102, p. 110). In the early 1960s, Phong may have witnessed how CIA agents began to recruit, train and lead Hmong people in Laos to fight against North Vietnamese Army divisions invading Laos during the Vietnam War and block their support lines or rescue downed A.S. Airforce pilots. Many of those lost their lives, which is what is reflected in Phong’s statement. As she is speaking in Hmong, Walt doesn’t understand. Initially, Gran Torino was welcomed by many Hmong Americans for being the first Hollywood movie that deals with Hmong culture with Hmong actors and a Hmong crew. However, there were several mistakes or at least inaccuracies in the treatment of Hmong culture. Also, there were complaints that some of the Hmong actors were isolated from the rest of the cast and crew. According to Bee Vang, efforts by the Hmong actors to correct the portrayal of Hmong traditions were ignored and the Hmong actors were treated as immigrants, while the majority of the Hmong actors were actually U.S. natives.


With a glance at the TV guide, Walt sees (and reads) his horoscope: “This year you have to make a choice between two life paths” (p. 42). This can be seen as a hint that Walt will have to decide between maintaining his conventional lifestyle and accepting that things have changed. The “[e]xtraordinary events” mentioned in the horoscope seem like a prophecy – the script anticipates the events will actually change Walt’s life.

Jackass And The Rice Stalk

A racist corruption of the well-known fairy tale “Jack and the Beanstalk”, used by one of the two Latinos on meeting Tao: “What you reading, gook, Jackass And The Rice Stalk?” (p. 15).

Jane Magazine

Read by Sue while she is sitting on her family’s porch (p. 17, “Jane” was an American magazine published by Jane Pratt between 1997 and 2007 (Aug.) and aimed at young women who grew up reading Sassy Magazine. “Jane” was fairly liberal concerning sexual issues and had a wider scope than many other magazines in this specific genre.

Johnnie Walker Blue

Johnnie Walker (Blue Label, p. 103) is Johnnie Walker’s premium blend with no age statement. Johnnie Walker Blue Label is one of the most exclusive Scottish whiskey blends produced by Johnny Walker with prices in the range of US$174–450.

Korean War

Walt’s participation as a soldier in the Korean War (1950 to 1953) is an important background event all throughout the movie. During Dorothy’s funeral feast, Walt’s grandsons Josh, Daniel and David find an old black and white photo which shows Walt in military attire: “a young WALT looks utterly exhausted, behind him six bodies are sprawled dead on the ground “ (p. 3). Josh reads out: ‘Third Platoon, E company, March second, 1952, Korea.’ In a conversation with Father Janovich, Walt makes a confession towards his wartime experience in Korea: “I lived with death for three years in Korea. We shot people, we stabbed them with bayonets, we hacked seventeen-year-old kids to death with shovels, for Christ’s sake” (p. 22). When Tao intends to steal Walt’s car, Walt grabs his “30-06 M1 Garand Rifle” he brought back from Korea (p. 23). When he drives the Hmong gang off his property, Walt mentions his military service in Korea: “In Korea, we stacked fucks like you five feet high and used you as sandbags” (p. 29). When Father Janovich criticizes Walt for not calling the police after the Hmong gang’s attack on Tao, he justifies his actions with a reference to Korea: “In Korea, we never ‘called the police’ when a swarm of screaming gooks came pouring into our lines. We reacted” (p. 34). Later on, it is mentioned in the script that Walt has returned from Korea in 1953 (p. 51). After the Lors’ house have come under attack from Spider’s gang and everyone is waiting for a signal from Sue, Walt come back to his field experience in Korea once again: “In Korea I learned not to care. The best friends of my life are still missing somewhere in Korea” (p. 99). The last reference to Korea is the moment when Walt gives Tao his Silver Star, warded for bravery in the field: “In Korea, October, 1952. We were sent up to sweep a Chink machine gun nest that had carved us up pretty bad. I was the only one who came back... I received the Silver Star” (p. 108). In the ensuing conversation with Tao, Walt recalls he might have killed at least thirteen people in Korea. One of them, as we learn from Walt when he has locked up Tao in the basement, was not more that a “scared kid” or “dumb, scared, little gook” of Tao’s age (p. 109).


Kowalski is a very common Polish surname derived from “kowalo” (smith). In Poland, “Jan Kowalski” is used as a placeholder name just like “John Smith” in the English-speaking world. The fact that Walt’s name is Kowalski may not directly provide him with an immigrant background, but it evokes memories of Polish characters visible on screen since the 1960s. Poles, often labeled as “Polacks”, were depicted as brutish and mentally slow. Schenk also makes use of this term when describing the guests at Dorothy’s funeral feast : “A mass of shuffling, stiff-jointed old Pollacks” (p. 9). Americans with Polish ancestry can mainly be found in the Rust Belt, which may be another reason for Schenk’s choice of names. The script makes Walt remember another Polish neighbor, Polarski (p. 13). Munaretto (2017) sees a connection between Walt and Stanley Kowalski in Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, suggesting Walt takes Blanches’ role in his refusal to accept his own economic decline and loss of social status. Munaretto also sees a link to Richard C. Sarafian’s road movie Vanishing Point (1971) establishing references between Kowalski’s white 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T 426 hemi and Walt’s Gran Torino. Clint Eastwood (Walt) also played a Polish character in The Rookie (1990), who was named Nick Pulovski. There is also a Polish Canadian wrestler, Walter “Killer” Kowalski.


Laab (or: larb) is a type of Lao meat salad seasoned with ground rice, fish sauce, lime juice and fresh herb. It has been an integral part of Hmong cuisine since the 19th century. When they’re sitting out on Walt’s porch, Walt and Sue are having some laab together (p. 75). Laab is also served at the Lor family’s barbecue (p. 97)

Meat raffle

A raffle is a lottery where prizes are guaranteed to be given out – in a meat raffle (cf. p. 20, Darrell), these prizes are usually sausage, steak, and other meats.

Mispronouncing names

Although you can mispronounce (foreign) names for various reasons, it’s usually a sign you don’t take the trouble to look up the correct pronunciation – and it excludes you from a majority of people whose names seem to be easy to pronounce. When Walt can’t remember any Hmong names (or at least pretends he can’t and uses less favorable alternatives instead, like “Toad” for “Tao”, p. 42), he can rely on his being part of a majority. By mispronouncing names, he ascribes insignificance to the bearers of these names. When he is outnumbered by patients with a non-white background at his doctor’s office, his own surname is mispronounced. This shows him he is no longer part of a majority in his community; moreover, he learns that people don’t bother to give him respect by pronouncing his name correctly.

Oakland Raiders

The Oakland Raiders (p. 36) are a professional American football franchise based in Oakland, California: “Trey wears big baggy pants, a sports jersey and an Oakland Raiders visor upside-down and backwards.”


The Pabst Brewing Company is a popular beer brewing company from Milwaukee. They produce mostly ale and lager. Pabst (p. 46) is Walt’s favorite beer brand.

Save face

Saving face” (p. 91) is an idiom for preserving one’s honor or prestige; although this phrase exists in western cultures just as well, the idea behind it is even more important in Eastern cultures. The ability to “save one’s face” even in calamities is essential for one’s position in a society dominated by personal relations with other people.


In traditional Hmong belief, the shaman is a healing practitioner who acts as an intermediary between the spirit and material world. As the the main communicator with the otherworld, he is able to see why and how someone got sick. In this case, it is not necessary to travel to Kor Khue to perform a specific ritual to find out what is wrong with Walt – he seems to know it instinctively. Sue points out that the “Hmong hold their clan Shaman in very high regards” (p. 50) – various studies carried out within the Hmong American communities show that many Hmong continue to consult shamans for their health concerns..

Silver Star

The Silver Star Medal (p. 3, 108) colloquially: the Silver Star) is the United States Armed Forces’s third-highest personal decoration for valor in combat. Since it was created, more than 100.000 soldiers have been awarded a Silver star.

Soul Calling

In Gran Torino, the shaman performs a Soul Calling ceremony, or hu plig. When a baby is born, the baby’s soul must be called home. Usually, the head of the household (in Gran Torino, probably Phong) would be the one to call the baby’s soul home as a sign of welcoming it to their family. In the second phase, the family’s shaman must perform a specific ritual to notify the ancestral spirits of the arrival of a new baby, normally a month or two after the baby is born.


Mentioned by Ashley in the script (p. 7), “State” is probably Minnesota State University at Mankato. In the movie, Ashley might rather attend Michigan State University (MSU) in East Lansing, about 90 miles from Detroit.


A Chevrolet Tahoe (Tim Kennedy’s car, p. 88) is a full-size SUV from General Motors.

Three Stooges

Walt names Wa Xam’s friends as “the Three Stooges” (48, p. 56), an American vaudeville and comedy team consisting of three rather silly characters and active since 1922.


The Minnesota Timberwolves (p. 1) are mentioned by Mitch as Walts favorite basketball team. As the “Wolves” are based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, this refers to the original setting in Schenk’s script.


VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) is an American war veterans’ organization headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri. Among its members were several US presidents. The VFW maintain community clubs all over the US, just like the one mentioned in Gran Torino (p. 19).


WD-40 (p. 70) is the trademark name of a penetrating oil and water-displacing spray. The spray is made by the WD-40 Company in San Diego, California


A “Weber” as in “Walt flips the inch-thick STEAKS on his Weber” (88, p. 95) is a grill. Weber-Stephen Products LLC is a popular American manufacturer of outdoor grills with related accessories.


A “Zippo” (p. 116) or Zippo lighter is a reusable metal lighter manufactured by the American Zippo Manufacturing Company of Bradford, Pennsylvania. It was part of the equipment of soldiers in the Vietnamese war and used to set fire to Vietnamese villages.


The Film

  • Gran Torino, Clint Eastwood, USA, Warner Bros, 2008 (German release)

Secondary Sources

  • Munaretto, Stefan (2017): Filmanalyse zu: Clint Eastwood: Gran Torino, Hollfeld: Bange, Königs Erläuterungen. (German commentary for high school students)
  • Wahl, Johannes (2017): ClintEastwood, Gran Torino: Interpretationshilfe für Oberstufe und Abitur. Stuttgart: Klett, Lerntraining (German commentary for high school students)
  • Kroll, Thomas (2010): Knarre oder Kreuzesnachfolge? Clint Eastwoods “Gran Torino” ist der Karfreitagsfilm. In: Pastoralblatt für die Diözesen Aachen, Berlin, Essen, Hildesheim, Köln, Osnabrück. - Erftstadt : Ritterbach. - Bd. 62 (2010), 3, S. 74-75 (Theological essay, examines the connection of “Gran Torino” with the death of Jesus Christ on the cross)
  • Alpermann, Dirk (2015): Wann ist ein Mann ein Mann? Die Auseinandersetzung mit Männerbildern anhand des Filmes “Gran Torino”. In: Religion. - Seelze: Friedrich, ISSN 2191-8066. - Bd. 18 (2015), S. 22-25
  • Roche, Mark W. (2011): Cultural and Religious Reversals in Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino. In: Religion and the arts. - Leiden: Brill. - Bd. 15, 5, S. 648-679
  • Ward, Annalee Ruth (2011): “Gran Torino” and moral order. - In: Christian scholar's review. - Wenham, Mass., ISSN 0017-2251. - Bd. 40 (2011), 4, S. 375-392
  • Weg-Engelschalk, Christine (2012): “Auf dass wir Frieden hätten” : Clint Eastwoods Film “Gran Torino”: Ein Mensch opfert sein Leben für andere. In: Schönberger Hefte. - Dietzenbach: Religionspädagogisches Institut (RPI) der EKHN. – Bd. 42, 1, S. 32-33
  • Umard, Ralph (2009): Der alte Mann und die Hmong: Clint Eastwood rückt in Gran Torino wieder den Typus des unnahbaren Einzelgängers in den Mittelpunkt seines neuen Films. In: Ray. - Wien: PVS, S. 70-76


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