WARNER BROS. PICTURES (2019)
Director: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Clint Eastwood,Bradley Cooper, Laurence Fishburne, Michael Peña, Dianne Wiest, Andy García
When I first heard about The Mule, I had assumed it was animated flick following a lonely ass. Alas, I was wrong.
Dirty Harry himself, Clint Eastwood, is back in the saddle – directing and starring in The Mule, his first acting-directing credit since 2012’s Trouble with the Curve. 2017 in Clintville gave us The 15:17 to Paris, which was borderline abysmal, and Eastwood gave himself the chance to start 2018 on a slightly better note. The Mule recounts the true-life story of 90-year-old Leo Sharp – the former World War II veteran and horticulturist who became the world’s oldest and most prolific drug courier for a Mexican cartel.
For the strange-but-true story, Eastwood certainly assembled a strong cast - Bradley Cooper, Laurence Fishburne, Michael Peña, Dianne Wiest, and Andy García all appear – but the movie itself is a dull, drab affair cruelly stretched out to nearly two hours in length. Given the story and the subjects involved, you would be forgiven for thinking that some dramatic tension would be woven into the narrative, but The Mule is surprisingly/frustratingly lacking in any real heft. It has its moments, definitely, more so when the walls and the authorities start closing in on Eastwood’s Earl Stone (renamed for the movie) but they are few and far between. Family relations, strain, and tragedy is present but lacks the emotional underbelly to make us really care for the characters.
Clint was probably the one guy who could play the role of Earl/Leo – grizzled, battle-worn, furiously pessimistic and carrying casual yet icky racism on his shoulders (disclaimer: I’m not calling Clint Eastwood racist…) – whereas Bradley Cooper is reduced to a soulless shell along with Michael Peña. Dianne West gives a solid performance but everyone feels strangely muted.
The movie looks good, DoP Yves Bélanger captures the Great American Outdoors majestically (at times), but that’s the real strong point of The Mule. The writing is lacklustre, performances robotic and the story isn’t as enthralling as it really should be. The Mule isn’t terrible, it’s just not terribly good.
January 10th 2019