What I expected to see what a melancholy movie about the dangers of living in an urban neighborhood. While Gran Torino certainly depicts the realities of urban violence, the violence is peripheral to the movie's core narrative. This story is one of a man, Walt Kowalski (played by Eastwood), coming to terms with the reality of his humanness - the legacy of his life and his inevitable death. It is a story about growth, Kowalski's growth in the twilight of his life and Thao Van Lor's, Kowalkski's 16 year old Hmong neighbor, growth into a man. Finally, it is a story about friendship, and the sacrifices and commitment found in true relationship.
This is vintage, quintessential Eastwood, yet with a vulnerability uncommon in many of his roles. Though Gran Torino was not what I expected, it far exceeded all of my expectations. If you can get past the vulgar language (both expletives and racial slurs), then I would highly recommend it.