Clint Eastwood has had a long, illustrious career both in front of and behind the camera and once again, he commands both ends of the spectrum for his latest effort, The Mule. This movie again showcases Eastwood delivering what he does best: Focusing on a character with a sense of moral ambiguity and harrowing circumstances.
Eastwood stars as Earl Stone, a retired World War II veteran turned horticulturalist who always put his work before family. His relationships with his ex-wife and daughter are virtually nonexistent and the only ties he holds to are his granddaughter.
Stone is facing foreclosure due to the failure of his flowering business and then gets an opportunity to make some serious money in a thriving enterprise. Little does he realize, Stone will become a drug mule for a cartel that will pay him to transfer copious amounts of illegal drugs.
Stone keeps a charming demeanor as he goes about his business instead of simply trying to get out. He also tries to help certain people along the way such as changing a flat tire and treating his fellow partners-in-crime to a barbeque sandwich.
Bradley Cooper and Michael Pena costar as DEA agents assigned to track down Eastwood and Laurence Fishburne is their superior. Curiously, the scenes with them don’t hold the same amount of interest. Instead they feel more routine like something straight out of a TV crime show.
Eastwood strikes a film that is equal parts lighthearted, darkly humorous, and somber to boot. Not only does he deliver solid work, but he also has tremendous support from Cooper, Fishburne, and Andy Garcia.
The movie could be accused of having a formulaic structure and I suppose that is what it’s supposed to be, but like certain crucial moments in the film, Eastwood directs it in a way where there can be a few curves to keep it on its toes before it arrives at its predictable conclusion.
From “Play Misty For Me” to “Unforgiven” to “Million Dollar Baby,” Eastwood stages his films to show that there are many facets to his characters and the motivations and details behind their actions.
I’m not sure if this will rank as one of his best directorial efforts, but Eastwood carries the film in every scene he’s in and it’s a winner.
(Rated R for language throughout and brief sexuality/nudity.)