10 years after last directing and staring in the same film (Gran Torino), and six years after his last acting role (Trouble with the Curve), Clint Eastwood is finally back. Inspired by true events (surprise surprise), The Mule tells the story of a 90-year-old man who decides to get some money in by becoming a drug mule for the Mexican cartel. It’s problematic, the drama is a little underwhelming, but my god is it charming.
Eastwood is fantastic in this film. He himself is 87 and yet at such an age he still completely carries the film. Playing the 90-year-old Earl, he has a huge amount of whimsy and charisma. He is a bumbling senile old man, getting lost in a world of crime and narcotics, and this adds a lot of character and light-hearted drama to the proceedings. In one scene, he is witnessing several Mexicans shouting while threatening each other with guns, and he simply stands back and watches while applying lip balm.
The rest of the cast includes Bradley Cooper, Lawrence Fishburne and Michael Pena as the agents on the hunt trying to capture him, Andy Garcia as a Mexican drug lord, and Dianne West and Alison Eastwood (yes, his daughter) as Earls ex-wife and estranged daughter respectively. The story waves between the drama of Earls family, the tension of the cartel getting tired of Earls bumbling methods, and the charming comedy of Earl driving along the American vistas while singing and chatting to himself, with twelve million dollars worth of heroin in his truck.
It must be said that the fact there are three stories going on in the film means that none of them work fantastically. The story will forget about the family for ages, focusing on the drug running. Then, it’ll go back to drama with Earls ex-wife or daughter, losing any tension the looming cartel was trying to add. All of this is also counteracted by the quirky comedy of Earl driving along, meeting people and often saying the wrong thing. All three of these aspects are also intercut with the scenes of the FBI crew getting ever closer, and the narrative eventually gets very tangled with confused emotion. Several scenes stand out as not working, including a scene of him accidentally being racist to a black couple. However, there is one thing that really stands out as truly bizarre.
Clint Eastwood has two threesomes. TWO THREESOMES. They have nothing to do with the narrative, the story simply stops when Clint Eastwood has two threesomes. Any tension is broken when Clint Eastwood has two threesomes. In the film he produced and directed as well as starring in, Clint Eastwood has two threesomes.
There are big problems with this film (including the fact that Clint Eastwood has two completely unneeded threesomes). However, it is remarkably charming, and does entertain with the same gusto as last year’s The Old Man and The Gun.