Gran Torino
Tiffany Phillipi
3rd Hour

external image grantorino.jpg

Walt Kowalski is a Korean war veteran and is a retired autoworker. He seems to dread life and doesn't have much left after his wife passes away. He lives next door to Hmong immigrants. He doesn't like the Hmong family that live next door. But when some events take place because of a local gang, Walt is force to defend them.

Hmong - Hmong is an ethnic group that come from Southeast Asia in areas like Laos, China, and Thailand. They came to the United States due to communist violence, which started when the Americans left.

Hero's Journey:

The Call
As an initiation to join a local gang, which his cousin "Spider" is a part of, Thao, a Hmong boy that lives next door to Walt, is asked to steal Walt's precious 1972 Gran Torino. As Thao is in the process of stealing the vintage car, Walt is awakened to a noise in his garage. Walt notices a light coming from inside his garage. Walt takes his gun with him as he checks out what is going on. He catches Thao in the process of stealing his Gran Torino, but when Walt trips and falls; Thao makes a run for it and escapes.

The Threshold
Because Thao had failed his initiation, Spider and his gang come back to give Thao another chance to join thier gang. Thao chooses not to try again, but the gang refuse to take no as an answer. The gang begins acting forceful and violent when Thao refuses. They grab him and try to take him along with them in their car. His family and some neighbors try to tell the gang to leave Thao alone, but they don't listen. Walt overhears what's going on and steps outside his house. He tells them to "get off his lawn." They disregard Walt and don't take notice of what he's saying. When they don't listen Walt tells them again to "get off his lawn" and takes out his gun. He threatens to shoot them as an attempt to scare them off. They leave.

Walt attempts to "scare" the gang away.
Walt attempts to "scare" the gang away.

The Challenges
Thao, Sue, and their mother thank Walt for not turning Thoa in for attempting to steal his Gran Torino.
Thao, Sue, and their mother thank Walt for not turning Thoa in for attempting to steal his Gran Torino.

  • Walt notices Sue being harassed by three black men. Walt decides to stop his truck and try to find a solution to what's going on. Walt tells the men to leave her along and to let go of her. They don't leave Sue alone, so Walt makes a gun out of his hand. The men are confused. When the men consistently refuse to leave her be, Walt pulls out a real gun. The guys back down and Sue gets inside his truck. He drives her home. Gran Torino
  • Walt is asked to go to a party at Sue's house. He goes along, but is looked at differently. He is the only white man there amongst the Hmong people.
  • Thao confesses to Walt about attempting to steal his Gran Torino. Thao is brought to work by his mom and sister to repay his debt to Walt. Walt isn't too fond about the idea, but accepts it. (Some ways he helps is by fixing a neighbor's roof, homes, and yards.)
  • Walt lives alone after his wife's death. His family visits him very little, and when he is, it isn't to keep him company but to talk about money, his health, and possibly moving to a senior assisted living home. Walt faces problems with his family life. His son Mitch only comes to visit Walt in a way to encourage him to put his family in his will. For example, in the beginning of the movie, Walt's granddaughter, Ashley, has very little communication with her grandfather. In an attempt to talk to Ashley about his Gran Torino, Ashley asks about what he were to do with it if he were to die. Throughout the movie, Walt's relationship with Sue and Thao is much stronger than the relationship he has with his family.
  • Walt is very sick, he coughs blood. He visits a doctor, who also is of Asian ethnicity, and discovers after reviewing his exam results that his health is not in good condition. He tries to tell his son Mitch about his health, but he can't bring himself to do it.
  • Walt comes to a decision to help Thao get a job, specifically in construction. On his way home, Thao unexpectedly runs into the local Hmong gang and is stopped. They push him around and before Thao could run off they grab him. Spider decides to stick a lit cigarette on Thaos' cheek. Walt finds Thao with a burn on his cheek. Afterward, Walt drives to one of the gang member's home and warns him and the other members to leave Thao alone.
The gang finds Thao walking home. Smokie burns Thao's cheek with a cigarette.
The gang finds Thao walking home. Smokie burns Thao's cheek with a cigarette.

The Abyss
Walt witnesses the Hmong gang shooting next door at Thao's house. Walt grabs his gun and goes out to check on the family. He sees Thao's mom crying and see that Thao's neck is badly cut and bleeding. Walt decides that it's best to stay with them. He asks them where Sue is. They expected her to be at her friend's house, but after calling her, her friend says she's doesn't know where Sue is. They hear the door open and her garndmother starts to cry. Sue comes home badly injured and bleeding. She was raped. At this point, Walt is very angry and cannot handle the violence their family had endured anymore. After seeing Sue and Thao hurt and how their family suffering, Walt decides to take matters in his own hands.
The Transformation
After Walt goes to confession and doing last minute errands (almost as if he is planning his death), Thao shows up at his house. Thao is ready to go with Walt to show vengence to the gang, but Walt will not let Thao come along. He tells Thao that he has something to tell him but it's downstairs in his basement. He gifts Thoa with a medal he had earned from the war. When he goes up the stairs he shuts a gated door and locks Thao in his basement. He does this to prevent him from going with him. He tells Thao that killing a man stays with a person their whole life. The guilt never leaves. Walt then goes alone to find the gang. He finds them and pulls out "a gun" which is just his hand. He asks for a lighter to light his cigarette, but the gang members just pull out their guns. Walt attempts to pull out a lighter. The gang members are fooled when thinking Walt was pulling out a gun. Walt was shot to death.
The Revelation
While Walt gets to know his neighbors more, he begins changing his views on his Hmong neighbors. Not only does he change his views, but he changes Thao's and his family's life. He prevents Thao from joining the local gang. Through this, Walt steers Thao's life in a different direction.
The Atonement
Walt finds peace with Thao and his family. He starts out in the movie disliking his neighbors. When he starts helping out their family, he grows to becoming very good friends with them. He almost becomes "part of the family". Walt had put aside his view on the Hmong and his past of the Korean war, and accepts them into his life.
The Return (with a gift)
Walt's family and friends come to Walt's funeral. Walt leaves behind his memory behind for his family, Thao's family, and the neighborhood. Walt also leaves behind his will and testament. After his funeral, a lawyer reads off Walt's will and testament to his family and also to Thao. With much surprise, Walt does not give his Gran Torino to his family, but to his friend Thao. He also leaves his story of bravery and courage behind.


There are many archetypes presented in this film. The main character, Walt Kowalski is categorized under a few archetypes. He is an example of a grieving widower, a cranky old man, and a fallen soldier. Walt is considered a grieving widower because he mourns the death of his wife. It seems as though he might’ve been much happier when his wife was still alive. He could’ve been less lonely with her and had more than just a phone call now and then from his kids. He also displays an archetype of a cranky old man. He doesn’t really like being bothered and likes to keep to himself. He certainly does not call for attention, especially from his Hmong neighbors. An example of how he demonstrates the cranky old man archetype, is when Father Janovich constantly visits him to talk about confession. Walt continuously refuses to go to confession and tells Father Janovich to leave. Walt is annoyed by the repetitive visits from Father Janovich. Walt is also classified as a fallen soldier. He is a veteran of the Korean War. He is just not a veteran but a racist veteran. He uses racist terms like “gooks, “zipperheads”, or “spooks”. He is not fond of the neighborhood’s increase of Hmong people. His past of the war follows him through his everyday life.
Father Janovich, the community’s priest, also displays archetypes. He would be classified at “the priest”. He is the average neighborhood Catholic seeking to help those who have fallen in their faith. He promised Walt’s wife before she died that he would watch over Walt and try to convince him to go to confession. He doesn’t stop even after Walt constantly refuses to go to confession, and proceeds in determination. At one point in the movie, Father Janovich tries to stop Walt from revolting against the local gang. He even tries sympathizing with Walt to steer him away from revolting.
Thao, a young Hmong teen boy living next door to Walt shows archetypes. Thao is somewhat of a pendagogue. A pendagogue is basically an archetype stating that learning is an importance to life. Thao learns his way through gang violence, Walt, and his race. In the beginning of the movie, Thao displays a “child” archetype. He is just learning how to “fit in” with the “cool” people, which is the gang. He goes through peer pressure when he is told to steal Walt’s Gran Torino. He also experiences peer pressure when he refuses to join the gang. He grows out of this archetype when he becomes friends with Walt. He learns what it means to be a real man. He works for Walt, is given a job by Walt, and even learns how to talk like a “man” from Walt. He later also learns in the movie that revolting is not an answer.
All of the gang members fall under the archetype as bravo. Two of the main gang members, Smokie and Spider show this throughout the movie. Bravo archetypical characters show cruelty and bullying. The gang members bully Thao during the movie. An example of how they showed “bravo” is when they stop Thao as he walks home from work. They push Thao around and tease him about how he has a job. They get so caught up with their bullying that Smokie takes a cigarette and pushes on to Thao’s cheek. They show a “rebel” archetype here as well. Another example of how they showed bravo and rebel is when they shoot at Thao’s house. Thao’s neck becomes badly cut. Later they find Sue coming home and she is raped. They cause the suffering of Thao and his family and they don’t show a care about that.
Sue is an example of a "defender" archetype. She defends her little brother Thao when the gang come by to get him. She does not care if what she says bothers the the gang. At one point in the movie, three black men stop her as she is walking with her white friend. They start verbally harassing Sue and do not stop. Sue defends herself as she says things back to the men. Her friend sort of backs away during this scene after the three men "scare" him off. Sue didn't really care if what she said could've caused the men to hurt her; she just cared about herself standing up to them. She wanted to prove that their words didn't get to her.

Impact of archetypes on the film

The archetypes present in Gran Torino impacts us as viewers. These archetypes show up frequently because it draws the viewers into the story being told. It also helps the characters fall into the hero journey chart. Archetypes provide a better sequence for the characters and the story as a whole. Archetypes better a movie’s story. It helps viewers engage into the sequence. They enhance the events that occur and keep the viewers thinking about what will happen next.
Archetypes provide variety in a story, so that there’s just not one type of characteristic in the people in it. Instead of having the classic “hero” or “villain” in a story, archetypes create that vast character role we often see today. If we didn’t have vast archetypes that we do, we would be bored. Archetypes tend to step out of that box and vary. Today, the archetypes in films and stories are relatable. The archetypes draw in readers or viewers attention.