The Mule may not be action packed but it has trunk-loads of tension with plenty of humorous touches, stellar performances and a refreshingly adult orientated story.
Plot: Clint Eastwood stars as Earl Stone, a man in his 80s who is broke, alone, and facing foreclosure of his business when he is offered a job that simply requires him to drive. Easy enough, but, unbeknownst to Earl, he’s just signed on as a drug courier for a Mexican cartel. He does well–so well, in fact, that his cargo increases exponentially, and Earl is assigned a handler. But he isn’t the only one keeping tabs on Earl; the mysterious new drug mule has also hit the radar of hard-charging DEA agent Colin Bates. And even as his money problems become a thing of the past, Earl’s past mistakes start to weigh heavily on him, and it’s uncertain if he’ll have time to right those wrongs before law enforcement, or the cartel’s enforcers, catch up to him.
Review: I’m not sure I would class this one as an action movie however, it is a new Clint Eastwood film so respect is due and I had to go out and support it on opening weekend.
I’m glad I did as it is one of Eastwood’s most layered performances to date; it manages to be funny, tense and incredibly moving. It’s hard to believe Clint is in his 80’s and still directing such quality movies as this, proving that age is just a number. Earl Stone deserves to be remembered as one of Clint’s most iconic characters as he is immediately appealing and very different from the badasses we are used to seeing him portray.
Earl is nothing like Walt Kowalski from Gran Torino (even if he still is casually racist) but he’s more of a doddery old man who manages to enjoy the nicer things in life even if he’s managed to make a mess of his relationships with his family. He’s a lovable old rascal who likes his women, music, dancing and generally being alive.
My brother described Eastwood as a painter who colours in each character and their nuances so no one ever feels one note; you’re expecting the cartel enforcers to be bland stereotypes but for once they are actually shown as human beings. This isn’t spoilery but there’s a hilarious scene with Earl singing in his truck and the enforcers are in theirs behind him (after planting a listening device in his truck) and they all start singing along with the song which was one of many stand out moments.
The cast are all at their A-list best with Bradley Cooper proving once again that he is one of the finest talents working in Hollywood today; he can just come across like he isn’t acting and the scene with him and Eastwood in the Waffle House is simply fantastic. I forgot Andy Garcia was in this and he has always been one of my favourite actors; he plays one of the most amiable cartel leaders I’ve ever seen in a movie giving a lightness to the tone rather than being the terrifying psychopath he easily could have been. Everyone feels like they could exist and the dialogue all flows naturally with plenty of unforgettable lines.
Dianne Wiest is one of the all-time great actresses and her relationship with Eastwood in this movie is heartbreaking but very real as he tries to make amends for being an absentee husband and father. Clint’s real life daughter Alison also plays his daughter in the film who has an even more complicated relationship with him so he has a lot of work to do.
As I said there isn’t much in the way of action but there are a few drug busts and an air of tension throughout as you never quite know what the cartels are going to do so it keeps you on the edge of your seat. Clint has been guilty in the past of making movies that can be a little slow but I never took my eyes off The Mule for one second as it starts off quite breezy but gets far more serious in the second half.
Overall, The Mule is a change of pace for a Hollywood icon but Eastwood proves that he can still tell a great story with memorable characters, a sharp script and a side order of tension making this one of the best films of the year for me.