THE MULE REVIEW
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Bradley Cooper, Michael Pena
Directed By: Clint Eastwood (Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby)
Runtime: 1 hour 56 minutes
Inspired by the failing New York Times Magazine about a 90-year old drug mule for the Sinaloa Drug Cartel, Eastwood (at 88) plays a convincing 90-year old. He had to be personally a little annoyed when Robert Redford released “The Old Man and The Gun” earlier this year because the plots to both movies are extremely similar. Old Man avoids police because he’s charming everyone around him and no one would ever suspect a nice guy to commit crimes.
Eastwood plays Earl Stone, a successful florist, whose business has been ruined by the rise of the internet. His house and farm are foreclosed on. Over the course of his adult years, Earl has ignored his family, choosing to focus on work instead. Now, he tries to rekindle a relationship with his estranged wife and daughter. At a party, he meets a guy who tips him off about a job driving from Texas to Illinois. The job seems like a sweet gig. Drive from point A to point B, don’t get pulled over, we’ll pay you for your troubles.
Stone happily obliges, never asking what he is transporting on his treks. Although he doesn’t seem too surprised when he finds out. The first half of the movie happily moves along and shows Eastwood driving, singing along to the car radio, doing everything a single man would do on a road trip. There’s never really any conflict for the first half of the movie. He finishes a trip, gets paid, helps someone with the money he receives. It’s fairly effortless. But never boring.
There’s a subplot featuring Bradley Cooper as the DEA Agent tasked with nailing the cartel’s presence in Illinois. He uses an undercover narc to get his info about when and where the cartel deliveries take place. A cat and mouse story develops as the two storylines converge.
The Mule is an overall pretty good movie. Although not great. Not an all-timer might be a better way to word that. Clint Eastwood shows us he’s still got it as an actor. Owning the screen whenever he’s on it. The twinkle in his beady eyes is enough to sell us on just about anything. Even some of the more curious elements of the story.
My biggest problem was that we go out of our way to try and not demonize anyone. I’m not sure who the villain in this movie was. I’m rooting for Clint Eastwood to get away scot free. That’s the goal, and I get that. But, The Mule shows the softer, more likeable side of the Sinaloa Drug Cartel. It never tries to make law enforcement out to be the bad guy. And Eastwood’s character is too sweet to be hated. So there’s a flaw in the movie’s logic there. It never shows anyone in a bad light. To the detriment of the movie.
A little known secret is that Bradley Cooper idolizes Clint Eastwood. On the set, Cooper constantly bugged Clint for directing tips. The Man with No Name must have taught him a little something, because Cooper went on to direct A Star is Born earlier this year, and that will probably bring him some hardware at some point this awards season. There’s a scene at a diner where the two actors face off without knowing who the other one is. It’s maybe the best scene in the movie, and a scene very reminiscent of the movie Heat. Watch Bradley Cooper though, I’m not sure if this is choice or an error. Cooper’s character is wearing the same shirt throughout the movie. Just a different color.
In typical Clint Eastwood fashion, The Mule is not PC. It makes racial jokes, sexual orientation jokes, The Earl Stone character is constantly out of place. Struggling with the ever-changing world, knowing he must change to survive but like all of us being extremely resistant to it.
While not perfect, The Mule is enjoyable. It hits the notes you want it to hit with a few surprises. A tad heavy handed in its message of putting family above all else, I think a little more subtlety at times would kicked this movie up a notch or two cause there is some truly great stuff in here. However, The Mule is at its best when the main plot is pushed off to the side and we see the Icon at work. Whether doing his own version of Carpool Karaoke or charming his way out of real trouble. Let’s be honest though. You’re going to The Mule for one reason. To see that trademark twinkle in Clint Eastwood’s eyes, and at 88, it’s nice to know that he’s still got a little something left.
On a scale of "See It/Stream It/Skip It" – See it all the way - This is a movie made for KFAB Nation
If you liked The Old Man & The Gun, Gran Torino, and American Sniper you might like The Mule
3 out of 5 stars for The Mule