Film Review: The Mule
PUBLISHED: 12:22 30 January 2019
For his second review Mark Goodin takes on The Mule featuring the legendary Clint Eastwood.
Clint Eastwood makes a welcome in front of the camera for his latest directorial feature, in which his avuncular 90-year-old horticulturist Earl Stone finds himself transporting drugs for a Mexican cartel in order to pay off his debts, all the while being pursued by the DEA.
Although this nonagenarian protagonist is hardly a drastic change from the gruff fragility of many of the characters Eastwood has played, it is nevertheless a joy to have him back on our screens and the film largely gets by on the sheer magnetism of his presence.
Together with screenwriter Nick Schenk (who also penned Eastwood’s similar Gran Torino), the actor-director fills his based-on-a true-story film with a palpable sense of dread and melancholy; Earl finds himself increasingly out of his depth as agents Colin Bates (Bradley Cooper) and Trevino (Michael Peña) close in and the cartel tires of his refusal to adhere to their rules.
Eastwood doesn’t quite manage to sustain this atmosphere throughout, his regular visits to Earl’s mawkish relationship with his estranged daughter (Alison Eastwood) and ex-wife (Dianne Wiest) feel like they belong in a different film and jar with the central, crime thriller plot.
Some of the characterisation is also thin - Andy Garcia’s dependably well-played cartel boss Laton is given far too little time truly to register. However, after the strong but politically troubling American Sniper and the navel-gazing piffle of 15:17 to Paris, it is great to have Eastwood back on such enjoyable, thrilling form.