The Mule review – Clint Eastwood beguiles as a grumpy old drug-runner | Film

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Ten years ago, I announced that Clint Eastwood’s movie Gran Torino surely had to be his “final acting appearance”. How very wrong. At the age of 88 – and in a not dissimilar role – he is back with formidable chutzpah, directing himself, with the crinkly-eyed grimace even more emphatically weaponised.

It’s a watchable movie, loosely based on a true story. There is a nice storytelling swing to it and Eastwood is frankly far more interesting than Robert Redford was in his recent swansong. Not that this is necessarily Clint’s acting swansong, not by any means. In old age, he has incidentally developed a walk as distinctive as John Wayne’s. His bare forearms in a short-sleeved shirt are now disconcertingly long, and have a kind of slow, menacing waggle, moving in tandem with his legs as he lopes to and from the car.

Eastwood plays Earl Stone, a cantankerous old geezer and prizewinning horticulturalist who has neglected his family all his life. When competition from the internet undermines his flower trade, Earl desperately needs cash and by accident falls into the highly lucrative business of running cocaine for the Mexican cartels. An old white guy in his rickety old pickup is never suspected by the cops – who are on permanent alert for Latino-looking males. There’s an interesting scene when a panicky and entirely innocent man in this category is pulled over by the police and he stammeringly tells them that this is the most dangerous five minutes of his life.

Clint’s Earl is in many ways quite outrageous and it is difficult to tell how deliberate this is. He is a genial, adorable racist and sexist who tells a black family they are “negroes” and smilingly submits to their polite correction. Yet more jaw-dropping is the fact that Eastwood awards himself two scenes in which his character gets it on with two prostitutes at once. We cut away from the gruesome action reasonably tactfully, but in each case the aftermath scene makes it clear that things have gone perfectly satisfactorily.

Elsewhere, Laurence Fishburne, Bradley Cooper and Michael Peña play cops whose characters and scenes are pretty perfunctorily written. It’s a sentimental tale of hokum, carried by Eastwood’s star quality.

Source: The Guardian
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