Say what you want about Clint Eastwood. The man is 88 years old and directs a movie every year, that’s so impressive. The Mule won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.
A 90-year-old horticulturist and Korean War veteran is caught transporting $3 million worth of cocaine through Illinois for a Mexican drug cartel
Regrets. I feel like Clint Eastwood has a lot of them. After watching his latest flick, The Mule, it felt pretty apparent that there are some underlying tones between his character in this movie and the real-life Clint Eastwood. It was almost like he wanted to use this project to tell the world that maybe he wasn’t always the greatest father or the worlds best husband during his life. When you start peeling back all of the layers of this film, when you get to its core, it’s about a man dealing with his family and all the regrets he feels about them. Yes, he still is an old-cranky white racist man, but after living on this planet for almost a century, what can you expect. Also remember that these are just characters he plays, and there’s a fine line between real life Clint Eastwood and the man we see on the big screen. Clint keeps on making movies, he was born to do so, and whether you agree with the person he is, the matter of the fact is, he is an 88-year-old man, who makes a film every year. What will you be doing when you’re 90? What are most 90-year-old people doing? Certainly not this.
So Earl Stone (Eastwood) isn’t a family man, in the first few minutes of the film he misses his daughter’s wedding in order to attend a flower convention. Earl loves flowers more than his family, he’s an incredible gardener and he’s well respected in that community. He enjoys putting the time into these flowers and watch them blossom into something beautiful. Something his wife points out, that he would rather watch his flowers bloom into something beautiful, while he stands by and watches his family die. He feels more comfortable among those people than he does around his own family. One of the themes of The Mule definitely is that “Millenials” ruin everything. That they don’t know how to do much, whether its how to change a tire, or deal with simple day-to-day tasks. It comes up so much throughout the movie, they really beat you over the head with it. In fact, Earl says at the beginning of the movie which takes place in 2005 that, “the internet, who needs it.” Well, the internet ran his flower business out of town, when we meet up with Earl 12 years later. All he wanted to do was provide for his family, “the most important thing is family.” Something Earl doesn’t realize until much later in life. So when his grand-daughter Ginny (Taissa Farmiga) is getting married, he meets one of her friends who said, if he ever needs some cash to give this number a call. You see Earl is 90 and he’s never had a parking ticket in his life, in fact, his entire record is squeaky clean. So Earl gets thrown into the life of a drug mule. He’s pretty much the perfect cover, and when he starts doing a great job, Earl very quickly becomes the cartels best and most reliable mule. Again, this is all about family, Earl is taking a serious risk, being tracked by DEA agents Bates (Bradley Cooper) and his partner (Michael Pena), and having to deal with well, the cartel.
You are going on a road trip with Clint, you spend a ton of time with him in his car, listening to him sing a various sort of songs, and I actually enjoyed this aspect of the film. As he keeps making these “runs” he soon figures out that he has bitten off way more than he can chew. But when he is able to help his community by re-opening his favorutie bar and pay for the open-bar at his grand-daughters wedding, Earl feels like this new gig is helping those most important to him. I wish we found out a little bit more about his past and why he is so distant with his family, missing one wedding couldn’t be all that he had done. That was one aspect I wish the film touched on because if the whole movie is going to circulate around this theme and this idea, it would have been more enjoyable if we knew just a tad more. Because when things between his family ultimately get better due to unfortunate circumstances that moment doesn’t feel as powerful as it could have. Clint is top-notch throughout, he played such a gentle, kind old man, but who also won’t take any shit from anyone, and toss in a pinch of racism. He has this charm, where Mexican cartel thugs learn to love him almost instantly and become his friend. Watching them teach Earl how to use a cell phone and text is quite funny.
Performances are great across the board, you can really tell how much Bradley Cooper admires Clint Eastwood, some even say he would love to be this generation, Clint. I’m pretty sure Bradley even let his Jackson Maine (A Star is Born) accent slip in a few scenes. Since Clint does make a movie every year, he can be really hit or miss, but I thought The Mule was another notch on his good belt. It surprised me in certain areas and I honestly thought I knew the whole movie before I even saw it. Tonally I don’t think it matched the great trailer, but that’s the job of a trailer, to sell you on a movie. I could have used more emotional beats, especially in those scenes that I felt could have been much more emotionally charged. With all that being said, I had fun with The Mule, and it’s one of Eastwood’s best films in recent memory. He has a great connection and chemistry with Cooper and I hope they continue to make movies together because I think Eastwood is going to outlive me.
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Nate’s Movie Tour Review – The Mule = 73/100