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Gran Torino by Kyle Eastwood and Michael Stevens

Gran Torino

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 Gran Torino (Download Song) Original Theme Song Performed by Jamie Callum
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Gran Torino (Poster and Memorabilia)








Gran Torino (Soundtrack) by Kyle Eastwood and Michael Stevens

Gran Torino
Composed by Kyle Eastwood & Michael Stevens
Promo (2008)

Rating: 4/10


“I'm quite certain GRAN TORINO will be remembered fondly by audiences. Many will find a nostalgic connection to Jamie Callum's original song; however, without the almost subconscious build-up of the EASTWOOD and STEVEN's score, that song would be considerably less effective.”

Whispers through Gran Torino
Review by Christopher Coleman

Seeing the name of GRAN TORINO brings back childhood memories for me. No - not so much of one of the hottest TV cars of all-time in Starsky & Hutch, but of one my folks owned. I have some pretty fond memories of going to drive-in theaters with my family in that Ford staple as little kid. The instant I saw the title, something was hooked in me and as it turns out both the themes of memories and family are two of the main themes of Clint Eastwood's latest project.  Seeing the grizzled and hardened stare of Clint Eastwood down the sites of a large firearm also brings back memories of 70s movie icon, Dirty Harry. It’s not much of a stretch to envision Eastwood’s character in GRAN TORINO, as what Dirty Harry would have been like after he retired. Certainly not the biggest stretch for the actor, GRAN TORINO displays Eastwood the way we like to see him most. Even moreso than his last starring (and directing) role in MILLION DOLLAR BABY, Eastwood offers up hard core, no holds barred, intensity, but again finds a way to give his character enough heart to make him embraceable. Now, when it comes to the film's music, as many of you might have come to expect. this Eastwood score reflects much more of the “heart” than it does it’s edgier side. With the director’s chair and starring role on his plate again, Eastwood left the musical duties in the hands of long-time, collaborator, MICHAEL STEVENS and son, KYLE EASTWOOD.

GRAN TORINO is much more than its teaser trailer made it out to be. It’s not just Dirty Harry versus the local gangs of a Michigan. As a cynical, ex-military, widower, Walt Kowalski (Eastwood) comes to realize that he has more in common with his new, Hmong, next-door neighbors than he does his own family. His reluctant, and sometimes hostile, dealings with his neighbors causes him to not only have to deal the Michigan town’s gang element but also his own inner demons.  So how does his classic GRAN TORINO factor into all this?  As an assembly-line worker for Ford, Walt actually help to assemble his GRAN TORINO which has since remained one of his prized possessions…as well as an object of envy of several other important people within the hood. In the end, his 70s-classic car comes to symbolize his legacy and affections. GRAN TORINO, displays Eastwood doing what he does best as an actor, even overcoming some of the weaker supporting acting performances.  Beneath his racially charged tirades and expletives, his character goes on a very touching journey of human connection and healing through sacrifice.

While a surprisingly entertaining film, GRAN TORINO, sadly does not depart from the Eastwood's musical formula. Looking at his body of work thus far, the shrewd director will certainly not be known for relying on music as an emotional crutch.  As they did for LETTERS FROM IWO GIMA, composers KYLE EASTWOOD and MICHAEL STEVENS collaborate and continue Clint Eastwood's distinctive brand of musical score.  GRAN TORINO essentially revolves around two musical ideas. Firstly, there is the central theme which is heard most often on guitar and backed by light strings and occasional bass guitar (see tracks 1 and 3). In track 6, “Father/Son Phone Call” we hear this title theme given it's most evocative orchestral treatment; played tenderly on strings. This short-lived piece is just the sort of musical tease that leaves me begging for a bit more, but "a bit more" rarely ever comes in an Eastwood film.  Now, this theme does not truly receive full expression until the film's conclusion and end credits where it is transformed into a memorable title song performed by JAMIE CALLUM. In truth, it is the most engaging bit of the soundtrack and stayed with me long after watching the credits roll.   During the final moments of the film, there is a rather uncomfortable vocal version sung by Eastwood himself, which is followed by Callum’s smooth rendition. The song has already been nominated for a Golden Globe Award and will likely garner further attention during award season.  (As much as I loved the song, it was not included on the promo release and as such is not reflected in the final rating here.) The second musical idea represents the central character of Walt Kowalski (Eastwood).  Throughout the film, he is represented by a militaristic flavor comprised of snare drum, timpani and the occasional bass drum. This idea most frequently appears when Walt is in confrontation with one of the story’s gang elements (see tracks 2, 4, 5, 7).  While this idea is accurate to a part of Walt Kowalki's character, it plays too one-dimensionally and doesn't add as much the film's emotional vibrancy or complexity.  In the end, I'm quite certain GRAN TORINO will be remembered fondly by audiences. Many will find a nostalgic connection to Jamie Callum's original song; however, without the almost subconscious build-up of the EASTWOOD and STEVENS' score, that song would be considerably less effective.

Most familiar with scores from Eastwood’s more recent projects will immediately identify his style of score. Simple melodies plucked out on piano, or in this case guitar, with the subtlest of small orchestral accompaniment were the foundations of MILLION DOLLAR BABY, FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS, LETTERS FROM IWO GIMA, and most recently CHANGELING. GRAN TORINO is hardly different. With director and starring role duties, Clint Eastwood left the musical reigns in the hands of his son, KYLE EASTWOOD and MICHAEL STEVENS and they have surely kept the Eastwood-score-brand alive in this film.  While the score outside of the film is flat and void, due credit must be given to both EASTWOOD and STEVENS for contributing the title theme which has been arranged into one of better original songs for 2008. 

Rating: 4/10

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Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 Gran Torino Credits 0:51  ***
2 Son of a Bitch 1:32  **
3 Wax A Car 1:15  **
4 Broken Gnome 1:42  **
5 Confrontation, Bro 1:31  **
6 Father/Son Phone Call 1:18  ***
7 Gangster Beatdown 1:47  **
8 Drive-By 1:53  **
9 Sue is Injured 2:27  **
10 The Fall 0:59  **
  Total Running Time (approx) 15 minutes  





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