Clint Eastwood directs himself as Walt Kowalski, a retired auto worker. Newly widowed, estranged from his sons, and haunted by his Korean War experiences, Walt is a bitter, racist old bastard.
He doesn’t like the Hmong immigrants who live next door and he nearly shoots the teenage boy, Thao, when he catches Thao trying to steal his beloved 1972 Gran Torino. The theft was to be the reluctant Thao’s gang initiation. The gang come by to punish Thao and Walt runs the “gooks” off his lawn at gunpoint. The Hmong neighbors start bringing over food and flowers in gratitude. Walt is confounded and wants to be left alone. Then Walt rescues Thao’s sister, Sue, from some “spooks”, and she invites him over to a celebration.
Walt slowly thaws as he realizes that he has more in common with the Hmong than he does with his own children. Thao is sent over to work for Walt as penance for the attempted theft. You guessed it, Walt and Thao begin to bond. Things go well for a while, then the gang comes back.
Eastwood is convincing as the flinty-eyed old son of a bitch who can stare down gangbangers a quarter of his age. And convincing too as the damaged, lonely old man, with a good heart under the foul-mouthed exterior.
Less convincing was the overly neat ending, when Walt goes to deal with the gang.