Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood) is a son of a bitch, and a particularly racist one at that. Having just endured his wife's funeral, Walt wants only to scowl and growl in solitude, left alone to simmer and seethe over past Korean War traumas and at the proliferation of Asian "swamp rats" and "zipperheads" who've infiltrated his Michigan community. But no, instead he's forced to suffer the grating company of his two idiot sons - the younger one even sells Japanese cars, which Walt, a lifetime Detroit car factory employee, takes as a direct insult - and their selfish, disrespectful kids, one of whom shows up to the services in a football jersey and another decked out in a midriff that reveals a belly button ring. Pesky, no good brats - grrrr. And then, once those blood-related twits have finally left him to his own grumpy devices, his tranquil, solitary existence is rudely interrupted by quiet, teenage next door neighbor Thao (Bee Vang), who has the nerve to try to steal his prized mint-condition 1972 Gran Torino. It's enough to make a man pick up his well-oiled wartime rifle and shoot some minorities, a plan Walt fails to complete (but not for lack of trying) and then ditches after discovering, a couple of nights later, Thao and his family being harassed by some local gangbangers.

What follows in Gran Torino, Eastwood's second directorial effort this season (after Changeling) and supposedly last starring gig, is in a certain sense merely old-fashioned Hollywood melodrama, as crotchety Walt slowly warms to, and protects from thugs, his non-Caucasian surrogate-family neighbors -- who are Hmong, an ethnic group from the mountain regions of Laos, Thailand and China -- while at the same time finding inner peace through open-minded compassion.