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July 7, 2019

Clint Eastwood's "The Mule" is an Overlooked Gem

" I liked the human element.  Instead of a big, blow'em up action flick, where elderly Earl takes on the cartel, we get an intense yet personal slow burn of a film.  It's the intimate moments that really make this film work. Eastwood effortlessly weaves the two story lines together to create a wonderfully satisfying yet emotional climax at the stories conclusion." - Ryan MacDonald

by Ryan MacDonald

Clint Eastwood's "The Mule" reminded me of that time when I used to get excited about going to the movies. Clint plays Earl Stone, a down-and-out 80 something-year-old man who decides to become a mule for the Mexican drug cartel.

As Earl's life starts to fall apart with the foreclosure of his home and business, he meets someone at a BBQ who gives him an offer to make some easy money for "just driving." Earl accepts the offer as a one-time deal. Of course, in the drug trade - Once you're in - You are in! As Earl accepts more drug runs, the tension builds as the loads get bigger and bigger. He is now drawing the attention of the D.E.A.  Earl spends his money freely becoming a hero as he tries to become a better person helping those in need.

Earl has a spotty past. He is an admitted failed husband and father. Despite how flawed Earl is, Eastwood plays old Earl with a perfect balance of self-confidence, light-heartedness and charm. This to mask Earl's growing feelings of regret.  

The supporting cast includes Dianne Wiest, Bradley Cooper, Andy Garcia and Clint's own daughter Alison Eastwood.  The entire cast is exceptional but the scenes between Wiest and Eastwood remind me how Hollywood once was.  The chemistry between Wiest, who plays Mary - Earl's ex-wife, and Eastwood, is very natural and believable as Earl tries to right the wrongs of his past. 

 Forgiveness, redemption and family are the elements in the script that truly makes this film stellar.  There is a scene where Earl is in a diner and sits beside DEA Agent Bates played by Bradley Cooper.  Bates doesn't know who Earl is.  Bates is upset because he just realized he missed his wedding anniversary. He and Earl strike up a conversation where Earl lectures Bates on not letting his career come before family. Don't do what I did! - is the message given as Earl again struggles with his past. Sadly, a scene like this is rare to see in films today, as Hollywood often shuns the promotion of family and values.

Eastwood's film before this one was the stinker "The 15:17 To Paris", which to me was a film Clint may have been asked to make for the propaganda arm of Hollywood.  The Mule, on the other hand, is a film that Clint seemed truly inspired to make.  Eastwood calls his own shots, and gives his fans a quality, mature picture that at its very core promotes doing the right thing, despite the fact his character spent a lifetime doing the opposite.

Related -- And now for a Lefty's take 

Response from D. Morris

I have not watched Hollywood movies for years.  I made an exception for "The Mule", as your reviewer Ryan MacDonald wrote a glowing review on your site.  I must say I was disgusted with this movie, and upset that you would recommend it.  The tropes run thick and deep:  "flawed man with a heart of gold" ( except his minor flaws include buying the services of prostitutes, and using the services  of hookers provided by a drug lord, including a scene in bed with two hefty ladies in thongs and bare breasts who he happily spends the night with.)  (Boys will be boys, heh, heh)
"Korean war vet", nice to slyly invoke this image, except Eastwood never went to Vietnam.  "Wife on the deathbed, and final repentance and forgiveness"..,awkward, clumsy clumsy clumsy.
"Drugs and Sex" non-stop...I've been watching this garbage for 50 years, and it's always the same.  It seems Americans can't do anything else.  You'd swear 90% of American society are drug runners.  And the cast is exceptional ???  In what universe?  The acting is wooden, unrealistic, and embarrassing.  "Family values?"  What a joke!

Scruples - the game of moral dillemas

Henry Makow received his Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Toronto in 1982. He welcomes your comments at