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  Mule, The The Geezer With The Goods
Year: 2018
Director: Clint Eastwood
Stars: Clint Eastwood, Bradley Cooper, Laurence Fishburne, Dianne Wiest, Ignacio Serricchio, Andy Garcia, Michael Peña, Alison Eastwood, Taissa Farmiga, Noel Gugliemi, Robert LaSardo, Lobo Sebastian, Manny Montana, Clifton Collins Jr, Richard Herd
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Thriller, BiopicBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Earl Stone (Clint Eastwood) used to be a top horticulturalist specialising in orchids, winning awards for his blooms and making a good living from them into the bargain. In fact, so keen on his flowers was he that he neglected his family, and some twelve years ago his daughter (Alison Eastwood) became estranged from him when he failed to show up for her wedding to give her away, preferring to accept another award at a ceremony instead. So now, in 2017, when her daughter (Taissa Farmiga) is getting married, his ex-wife Mary (Dianne Wiest) lambasts Earl for appearing at the reception without warning. But someone at the celebration has a proposition for him...

The Mule was part of Eastwood's directorial run of late period biopics and factually-inspired movies, seemingly because he could not find a fictional tale that suited his sensibilities - no more Westerns, basically. Although it came hot on the heels of the poorly-received flop The 15:17 to Paris and was released just as news, perhaps not coincidentally, was broadcast that his ex-partner Sondra Locke had died which put his treatment of women in his private life into question, this actually garnered many positive reviews, and as it may have been his final starring role as he approached ninety years of age, his fans were keen to champion it as proof he retained his talent for filmmaking.

Even so, there was some criticism for the scene where his character was bedded by two Mexican prostitutes a fraction of his age, which in isolation may have sounded like an abuse of his directorial position, but in context was simply another example of how Earl, even at his advanced age, could not stay away from the ladies, no matter what age he or they were. Evidence of his irresponsibility, then, and it's not as if the scene was filmed like a porno: we saw just enough to understand what was going on, then the lights went out on a quip. That was the thing about The Mule: for the first three quarters it could have passed, rather oddly, as a comedy, or at least a so-called "dramedy".

You may go in expecting a serious drama based on an elderly reprobate's late in life criminal activities, and to be fair in that final act that was what was on offer, but before that you may be surprised to find yourself laughing at Earl's exploits. How funny the real life story of Leo Sharp, the man the cartels called El Tata (literally, The Grandpa), was debatable, but screenwriter Nick Schenck, who had penned Eastwood's hit Gran Torino, had a background in comedy and he put that to decent use, if not roll around hilarious. Still, it had echoes of Clint's broader comedies of the eighties, and not unwelcome either, as despite being known for his action and thrillers, he had comic chops that were applied here in generous sequences of Earl being nice to minorities (Clint's work is often inclusive) to funny-scary situations where it's only his elderly status that stops Earl getting his ass kicked.

After all, it damages your macho status to be seen beating up a senior citizen, though how much Earl is aware of the implications of what he is now making a fortune doing - drug running for gangsters, more or less - were less clear. According to this, he stumbles into it and barely realises what he is carrying on his first run, though he becomes more savvy later on, whereas in reality Sharp was motivated out of desperation, but also greed, which doesn't really enter into the equation here as Earl passes on most of his profits to seeing his granddaughter has a good start in adult life. As Mary thaws to him, so do the rest of the family, but a DEA Agent (Bradley Cooper) is on his trail, rendering this curiously akin to an O.A.P. variation on Steven Spielberg's Catch Me If You Can. Andy Garcia was the big boss down Mexico way who gets overconfident, as Earl does, and there was fine support from a group of actors seasoned in gangster roles (Ignacio Serricchio and Robert LaSardo very effective), but undercutting this from being a real gem was late on sentimentality, as if it did not quite have the courage of its amoral convictions. Cope with that, and this had low key suspense, but satisfied. Music by Arturo Sandoval.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Clint Eastwood  (1930 - )

Becoming a superstar in the late 1960s gave Clint Eastwood the freedom to direct in the seventies. Thriller Play Misty for Me was a success, and following films such as High Plains Drifter and The Outlaw Josey Wales showed a real talent behind the camera as well as in front of it. He won an Oscar for his downbeat Western Unforgiven, which showed his tendency to subvert his tough guy status in intriguing ways. Another Oscar was awarded for boxing drama Million Dollar Baby, which he also starred in.

Also a big jazz fan, as is reflected in his choice of directing the Charlie Parker biopic Bird. Other films as director include the romantic Breezy, The Gauntlet, good natured comedy Bronco Billy, Honkytonk Man, White Hunter Black Heart, The Bridges of Madison County, OAPs-in-space adventure Space Cowboys, acclaimed murder drama Mystic River, complementary war dramas Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima and harrowing true life drama Changeling. Many considered his Gran Torino, which he promised would be his last starring role (it wasn't), one of the finest of his career and he continued to direct with such biopics as Jersey Boys, American Sniper and The Mule to his name.

 
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