Clint Eastwood was the Brad Pitt of his time. He was the guy that all the girls wanted and the men wanted to be.

He was the hardened, no-nonsense hero that kills the villain, saves the town and kisses the girl, all the while keeping his cool. He was at one time the incarnation of male filmmaker’s fantasy of the ultimate perfect man, which had once manifested itself in Cary Grant, Steve McQueen, Sean Connery, Bruce Willis, Leonardo DiCaprio and many more.

Eastwood plays a shadow of the towering movie star he once was in The Mule, which he directed and co-produced. Inspired by a true story, it is a film about an old man who, forgotten by the world, uses his invisibility to launch himself into becoming one of the most successful drug mules in American history.

The part called for a performance that is low key, without the flamboyance and aesthetics of a movie star, and Eastwood delivered. There is no town to save, not a single villain he is even remotely equipped to stop and no girl to kiss unless he pays for it.

Eastwood plays Earl, a fictional character based on Leo Sharp, a once famous horticulturalist geriatric who out of desperation begins transporting illegal drugs for a Mexican cartel.

Estranged from his daughter and evicted from his house by a bank, Earl meets a strange young man who promises to get him paid for merely driving his car across the country.

Reluctantly, he accepts the offer.  line of work is punishable by law, but he settles quite cosily in his new profession. A nostalgic old man emotionally stuck in the first half of the 20th century, no one pays him, or the kilos of cocaine he hides in the trunk of his car, any attention.

He soon becomes an urban legend, not to mention wealthy. But as his profitable job begins to interfere with the responsibilities of his already strained family life, he will have to make a choice.

The film is poignant. Eastwood seems to identify with Earl, a man who does not understand nor is comfortable with the character and feel of his time. He thinks it is too hurried, and that people have grown to stop to notice the pleasures of life. Faced with a generational shift that becomes more rapid and extreme every time it occurs, he is a man that has grown confused over how the world has come to work.

This is not one of Eastwood’s great movies. Earl is a multidimensional character inhabiting a prominently one-dimensional world. There is not a subplot that can be watched without rolling one’s eyes. To boot, the film retires before tying off the side stories it sets up. It is as if Eastwood, too concerned with the protagonist’s fate, did not figure everyone else in the movie mattered - which is what Earl himself would have done if no one reminded him of it.

Nonetheless, this is perhaps one of the best movies ever directed by an 88-year-old. It is a mediocre movie, but Eastwood deserves praise for the care and attention he gives the main story. He has not fallen for the cheap thrills so characteristic of this time and his love and respect for cinema is still palpable.

Eastwood is welcome to make a great movie at this time in his career and life, but there is not he does not need to prove his capability. This is a man that in one lifetime starred in the fantastic Westerns of Sergio Leone’s Dollar Trilogy and directed the exquisite movies Unforgiven, Mystic River and Million Dollar Baby. He has one more lifetime’s worth of a pass to make middling movies about old men that are almost out of time and mind.

PUBLISHED ON Jan 19,2019 [ VOL 19 , NO 977]


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