Well I doubt I’ll get many “Get off my lawn” moments, but I accept anything with Clint Eastwood in a dangerous situation.
So there’s a little bit of history on this movie. For one thing, it’s based on a true story. The names were changed in the movie, so I imagine even more creative liberties will be taken, but the real story involves a man named Leo Sharp. He was indeed a 90 year old WWII veteran who became a drug mule for the Sinaloa drug cartel and was eventually arrested in 2011. If you want to read more about him, you can check out his Wikipedia article here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leo_Sharp
In any case, the movie looks like it’ll be loosely based on Sharp.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Clint Eastwood (GRAN TORINO  and A FIST FULL OF DOLLARS ), Bradley Cooper (ASIB , GUARDIANS  and VOL. 2 , WAR DOGS , JOY , and the upcoming AVENGERS: ENDGAME ), and Michael Peña (ANT-MAN/WASP , LEGO NINJAGO , COLLATERAL BEAUTY , THE MARTIAN , and the upcoming FANTASY ISLAND (2020).
In support, we have Dianne Wiest (SISTERS ), Andy Garcia (MAMMA MIA 2 , GEOSTORM , PASSENGERS , and upcoming films WHAT ABOUT LOVE  and ANA ), Laurence Fishburne (ANT-MAN/WASP, LAST FLAG FLYING , BATMAN V SUPERMAN , RIDE ALONG , MAN OF STEEL , PREDATORS , MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III , and upcoming films WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE  and BROTHER’S KEEPER ), Taissa Farmiga (WHAT THEY HAD ), and Alison Eastwood (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of, and the upcoming THE TROUBLE ).
Now for the crew. Directing, we have Mr. Eastwood, known for 15:17 TO PARIS (2018) and SULLY (2016). Penning the screenplay is Nick Schenk, known for GRAN TORINO. Composing the score is Arturo Sandoval, known for stuff that I’ve either never seen or heard of. The cinematographer is Yves Bélanger, known for DEMOLITION (2016), BROOKLYN (2015), and the upcoming FLARSKY (2019). Finally, the editor is Joel Cox, known for DEN OF THIEVES (2018) and ALL EYEZ ON ME (2017).
Overall, I need to divorce the idea that Eastwood is likely not going to go full action hero here, which is a shame despite his advanced age, so this is likely going to be a more dramatic movie laced with tension. So I wager it’s going to be on the slower side. So long as we have good characters, I think I’ll like it just fine. But I can say that about any movie. As is, no real expectations. Just hoping for something better than 15:17 TO PARIS.
This is my honest opinion of: THE MULE
Set in Peoria, Illinois, circa 2005. The story follows 90 year old Korean War veteran, Earl Stone (Clint Eastwood). Over the course of his life, he’s been a failed husband to his now ex-wife Mary (Dianne Wiest), and a failed father to his daughter Iris (Alison Eastwood), but seems to have earned the love and admiration of his newly-engaged granddaughter Ginny (Taissa Farmiga). After missing Iris’ wedding day, he attempts to try and make things right at their home, but Iris won’t speak to him and Mary won’t forgive him. He leaves, but not before a Hispanic gentleman approaches him and offers him driving work for a local drug gang, though Earl doesn’t know that initially. Despite his unorthodox and clear fish-out-of-water methods, he invariably does good work and gets paid decent money, which he uses to pay off the foreclosure of his house, for Ginny’s wedding, and even helps re-open a popular club. Eventually, he does such a good job that the head honcho Laton (Andy Garcia) wants to meet him.
Actually, this movie was pretty good. A little slow at times, but it has some pretty good moments.
The truth is, this is a much slower film than one might expect. There’s no big epic shootouts, not a whole lot of staring down drug lords to measure dicks, it’s not really that kind of movie. The movie makes up for it by having a load of charm. Yeah, imagine that, Clint Eastwood is allowed to be a charming and likable old man. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before. He’s so gruff and “get off my lawn with a shotgun,” you know? Plus, he has a career playing bad-ass cowboys, lawmen, highwaymen, or whatever you want to call his western career. In his opening scenes, he’s quite the funny guy. He says something racist to one of his Hispanic employees, but is called an asshole, and he knows it, both laughing it off. The next scene is him at this soire where he gives away some of the flowers he grows and he says something mean to one of the guys and he playfully, yet seriously, says to him, “Has anyone ever told you that you’re an asshole?” Then Earl says, “Yeah, in Spanish too.”
That’s another thing about this movie, the humor really works. While many would argue that there’s no real excuse for an old man to be racist in 2018, I think there’s a few arguments to be made. He certainly says racist things. He says to a Hispanic worker upon seeing his old, beat-up car, “You’re just asking to be deported.” Or how about after learning that a group of bikers aren’t men, but rather “dykes on bikes,” and then offers his insight on a motorcycle that a pair are working on, they say thank you, and then he says, “You’re welcome, dykes.” I won’t lie, this shit had me laughing at just how inappropriate he gets. But there’s a reason why I’m laughing, and not outraged. It’s because he’s clearly a product of his generation, but there’s no “white superiority” about him. He never means any disrespect. He’s a kind-natured dude who treats everyone with respect. He says disrespectful things, but he never means disrespect. Oh, oh! And how about when he’s being tailed by Julio Gutierrez (Ignacio Serricchio). Earl starts singing to Frank Sinatra’s “Ain’t That a Kick In the Head,” and slowly but surly, Julio and his goon start singing along too. I won’t lie, I was mouthing out the words too, and when the bad guys were singing along, I quietly cheered. THE POWER OF FRANK SINATRA CANNOT BE DENIED!!!
He’s likely just ignorant and doesn’t know why calling a Hispanic a beaner (or is it bean-eater?) is an offensive term and doesn’t know the proper word to use. Hell, I’m of Hispanic heritage and even I don’t know why it’s offensive.
I just Google’d everything, and now I’m all caught up. Not gonna lie, “spic” made me laugh.
Anyway, the point I was trying to make is that Earl is made a likable character, despite his ignorance. Also, there were little ticks that Eastwood threw in that really tickled me. He does that old-man-grumbling that’s almost iconic in curmudgeon old men. I have no idea if he does that consciously or unconsciously, and I have no idea what reality would be funnier.
By the way, it was killing me where I’d seen Eugene Cordero, who plays Luis Rocha, in the movie from. Then it dawned on me. PILL BOY!!! From THE GOOD PLACE (2016 – ongoing). Please tell me one of you watches that show. If not, watch that show. It’s incredible. It’s funny. It’s incredibly funny. Granted, Cordero is only in it for, like, one or two episodes, but he clearly left an impact if I’m freaking out about where I saw him from.
Oh, and I love that scene where Special Agent Bates (Bradley Cooper) and Trevino (Michael Pena) pull over an innocent Hispanic dude on the road. He’s all about “these five minutes are the most dangerous of my life as a Hispanic person being pulled over by white law enforcement,” even though none of them actually mean this guy any harm. He come out of his truck and he’s all like, “My hands are out, I’m slowly coming out of the vehicle! My hands are on the hood of my car!” I was cracking the hell up. And the candle on the cake? Bates and Trevino realize they have the wrong guy, send him on his way all pleasant like, and he says, “Thank you for your service, gentlemen!” Yes, rights being violated simply because of your ethnicity, but keep on being pleasant and understanding. Gotta love it.
One of my favorite moments is toward the final act of the movie when Earl and Bates are in a local diner together talking and he’s all talking about how he screwed up as a father and a husband. This is arguably the most subtle acting I’ve seen out of Eastwood in years where he has that thousand-mile stare into nothingness, and says, “It’s like they [his family] were never there.” And in his expressions, you see his decades worth of regrets and longings to do something different. In fact, the final act of the movie is where the best of Eastwood’s acting shines. His comedy has been great all movie long, but his dramatic acting really shines here when he’s with Mary, his daughter, and it’s all so engaging. Loved it. By the way, I’m in love with this line exchange:
I love you, Mary.
More today than yesterday?
But not as much as tomorrow.
In a different movie, I would be crying. I wanna say this to a woman, dude!
But I can’t keep singing praises. This movie does have a few stumbles.
The writing isn’t always up to snuff. Granted, it’s just the beginning where the worst of it is. There’s a scene where Iris is getting married and Mary just comes up to her and randomly lists everything that he’s screwed up in. “He missed your baptism, your graduation, not to mention more than a few anniversaries.” It’s like… does she have this conversation with her every time Earl screws up? Iris would obviously remember that he didn’t show up to the things that directly pertained to her. But thanks for holding my hand, movie.
Also, what kicks off this movie as a whole was pretty weak. I mean, Earl meets a guy that would lead to him ultimately becoming a drug mule for the cartel AT his daughter’s wedding reception? That seems… staggeringly coincidental. I mean, people associate with people of all shapes and sizes, but this nice, middle class white family having a dude working for a drug cartel just waiting to hand out referrals feels like it doesn’t happen very often. And that Earl hasn’t the slightest idea of what he’s doing? That seemed even less likely. I mean, he pulls in to a garage with Hispanic dudes CARRYING M-16s!!! That’s not normal in a normal garage, yo!! You’re meaning to tell me that zero red flags went up?! Not once questioning why these guys were so heavily armed, giving him mysterious black bags that he’s told not to open, given burner phones that he’s threateningly instructed to answer “night and day,” given money in envelopes in another car, no, seriously, NO red flags??? This seemed so… so dumb to me.
I didn’t agree with Earl’s justifications for never being there for his family and being so married to his plants. Something about… they bloom? They “deserved love and attention”? Um… I’m surprisingly okay with the blatant racism that comes out of Earl’s mouth, but there’s something about how stupid his reasoning is. I would… herm… “accept” his reasoning if he adopted a hippie mindset and wanted to plant trees to rebuild the ozone layer, or some crap like that, but simply spouting the science of “they bloom” is NOT a good reason. I mean, after that, no wonder Mary refuses to dance with him. I mean, she was refusing all conversation long, but after that… yeah, Earl deserved that proverbial slap in the face.
Overall, I think this movie is pretty good. I don’t think I agree with the current IMDb rating of 7.8/10 (as of 12/14/2018), but I think it’s a bit better than the RottenTomato score of 64% (as of 12/14/2018). I’m somewhere inbetween these ratings. I think it’s got a wonderful performance out of Eastwood (apology accepted for 15:17 TO PARIS) and both the humor and drama really worked throughout the film. Sure, there’s some aspects to Earl that I didn’t agree with, and at least one narrative plotpoint that was entirely forced, but none of this hurts the movie all that much. As a recommendation, yeah, I say this is worth a watch. Bare in mind that it is about two hours long and there are slow spells, but it keeps you engaged for the most part, so either this movie will bore you, or it won’t. Probably best left for Clint Eastwood fanatics, or an older demographic. But I, a 29 year old, enjoyed this just fine, so take it for what you will.
My honest rating for THE MULE: 4/5
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