“The Mule” is the latest film directed by and starring Hollywood elder statesman Clint Eastwood and was scripted by Nick Schenk. An impressive cast includes Bradley Cooper, Michael Pena, Laurence Fishburne, Dianne Wiest, and Andy Garcia. Clint’s own daughter, Alison Eastwood, also does well as the embittered offspring of his character, Earl Stone. The film draws its inspiration from the story of Leo Sharp who became a drug courier in his eighties.
A 90 year-old horticulturist is estranged from his family and is about to be in some serious financial trouble as he stumbles into a lucrative yet dangerous career of being a cartel drug courier. Cooper and Pena play the DEA agencies who are on the hunt for the cartel members.
Eastwood still can be an engaging screen presence at 88 years of age. I did notice there was a reliance on a somewhat standard schtick of his these days where he plays the old guy not quite up on the conventions of the day. I did roll my eyes a bit when he once again used racial epithets that are no longer accepted or ignored as easily they were a few decades ago. It just seems more noticeable in recent films and a little overdone by now. I don’t think I found it offensive, but I just found that particular practice a bit too typical of Eastwood’s work lately and I am uncertain as to the purpose of him revisiting it.
The message of people needing to place more of a priority on the family over work was somewhat hammered a bit too hard at times, but I can’t necessarily argue with importance of it. Eastwood isn’t known for his subtlety.
There are some great shots of the landscape during Earl’s road trips sometimes. Eastwood is still a talented director and a compelling performer. Although it is much easier to believe that he is approaching his ninth decade. Strangely, I do still hope he is not ready to retire yet.
The performances from the main cast were good. Some of the cartel thugs seemed a little stereotyped and cliché, but I am not sure there is a real good way to avoid that since most of them were not that consequential to the story.
This is still one of Eastwood’s strongest films in recent years. The issues I have with it did not keep me from having some significant enjoyment. It’s still fun to see a new Eastwood film. He still seems able to draw out some engaging performances from the cast members. He is still able to produce that unique, familiar charisma that only he can do.
“The Mule” is still a film worth watching and appreciating while hoping that Clint isn’t done just yet.