Now when we first heard about Clint Eastwood’s new film The Mule we were put in mind of our Deputy Editor’s ex- wife. So whilst one is a stubborn and dim witted hybrid of other less fortunate species, the other is a four legged animal but both are a bit of an ass. Here though The Mule is slang for a person who transports drugs from one place to another and here it’s the true life story of Earl Stone (Clint Eastwood) a divorced ex-horticulturist whose house has been foreclosed by the courts due his business falling prey to the internet. He ‘s committed his whole life to work and in the process missed birthdays, anniversaries and even his own daughter’s wedding and as a consequence is estranged from his family. At 90 years old he’s behind the times having lost out to the rise of the internet and is a man very much of his time, a former Korean war vet who still refers to a couple at the roadside that he assists as ‘negroes’ seeing it as an inoffensive label.
But its that naivety that sees him take up what he sees as an innocent an offer from one of his daughter’s friend to deliver anonymous packages from a bunch of surly Mexicans for increasingly large cash payments on behalf of the drug baron Laton played by Andy Garcia (a role that sees him with more to do than he did in Mamma Mia Here we go again). At the same time a DEA agent (Bradley Cooper) has transferred to the state and is out to make a splash and along with another DEA agent Michael Pena they soon catch themselves a snitch who puts them on to the mule making drug drops.
It’s been ten years since Eastwood’s last lead role in Gran Torino which was a fitting swan song for his acting career but at 88 years old he has returned to play someone older than himself but despite his hunched shoulders and almost cadaverous appearance Eastwood still has star quality and frankly it is great to see him back on screen. Cooper still dazzles and is the heir apparent to Eastwood’s throne having picked up directing tips since having appeared in American Sniper but here he is very much the supporting player and the couple of scenes they share together is almost a father and son relationship especially after they casually meet at a diner when, as Earl, he gives them words of wisdom about the importance of family over work and it dovetails into an unusually sentimental end for an Eastwood film. But this is very much Eastwood’s film with Cooper’s role a minor one really and it’s good to see Dianne Wiest again as his ex-wife having not appeared in anything notable for years and the directors own daughter Alison appears as his on screen daughter.
For Eastwood’s mule it easy to see the appeal of such effortlessly acquired cash in hand but you know there’s a storm coming either from the increasingly dangerous drug cartel worried about the ever larger drug deliveries he makes or from the DEA who are drawing ever closer to getting their man.
After the disappointment of The 15:17 to Paris this is a big improvement although it is a little saggy and its nowhere near as tense as it could be but then it is offset by seeing Clint back on the big screen.
Here’s The Mule trailer……