Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The Mule review

It's sad to say this but the reality of life is that those that we admire age and will face the end of their lives. Legendary actor and director Clint Eastwood is eighty eight. And to be honest, it is the twilight of his career. But like the late director Akira Kurasawa, he's not going out gentle into that good night. In The Mule, Eastwood stars and directs a story based on a real life a man in his eighties named Leo Sharp who ran drugs for a Mexican drug cartel.

This story does take some fictional turns but the gist is the same. Illinois resident Earl Stone (Clint Eastwood) is an old man in his nineties who was a Korean War veteran and expert horticulturist. It's the early two thousands and he sells his flowers from his farm but does not see the advent of the internet. Stone is involved in his prize winning lilies that he neglects his daughter Iris played down to earth by Eastwood's daughter, Alison Eastwood. This also aggravates Iris' mother and his ex-wife Mary. (Dianne Wiest) His closest familial relationship is his granddaughter, Ginny. (Taissa Farmiga)

A decade or so later, the internet with its ability to sell flowers online kills his business. And while visiting Ginny and seeking help, a Mexican friend of hers offers Earl a chance to drive his truck for some buddies who turn out to be drug dealers. Earl agrees and after a couple of "errands" he becomes an extremely capable drug runner or mule. He's so successful that he is earning hundreds of thousands of dollars. Meanwhile, DEA agents Bates (Bradley Cooper) and Trevino (Michael Pena) are tracking Stone's connections looking to bust the operation.

As usual, Eastwood attracts a very talented cast. His daughter, Allison is good as he neglected daughter. Taissa Farmiga is quite real as a working class granddaughter. Ignacio Serricchio plays Julio, a cold cartel handler and he's excellent in depicting the humanity in guy who's bad but has some goodness somewhere in him. Eastwood is good but it's tough for him to play a guy who's probably a little goofy and should be afraid of who he's dealing with. I mean when was the last time, you've seen Eastwood play as a character who was in fear. That doesn't hurt this film but one problem is that Eastwood and Nick Schenk's screenplay gives too much time to everyone, including Eastwood himself. From Wiest's scenes to Eastwood's party celebrating the restoration of a VFW, it's an excess that the film needed to be cut so it would be tighter.

One should applaud Eastwood and Schenk for not making Stone a perfect hero. He's not. He's a guy who at times is generous but the film always reminds you that he's a drug mule working for some really bad "hombres." Eastwood's direction is clean without interfering with his actors and the story. His shots are clean and clear. He's able to convey the tension of the story of an elderly guy who trying to stay ahead of the law and not anger the dangerous cartel.

Eastwood still has it as a director. And more importantly, he knows a good story. The grade for The Mule is B Plus.