The Mule

Year: 2018
Studio: Warner Bros
Director: Clint Eastwood
Producer: Clint Eastwood
Writer: Nick Schenk/Sam Dolnick
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Dianne Wiest, Tessa Farmiga, Laurence Fishburne, Bradley Cooper, Clifton Collins Jr, Michael Peña, Andy Garcia

Ever hear the one about Harrison Ford, Tom Waites, Nick Nolte and Clint Eastwood having an argument in a bar? The ents from Lord of the Rings asked them to speak up.

Clint plays Grizzly McGrizzlington, a grizzly old timer who grizzles his way across America running dope for a Mexican cartel. You couldn't make it up, except that it's a true story based on a magazine article.

Look, Clint Eastwood is a fine director but he'll never be more than that. I don't know if it's because he's inherently just not terribly talented beyond waiting for a set-up and yelling 'action' and 'cut' or if that's all be can be really bothered doing. But as long as Warner Bros keeps giving him money and audience keep giving him $174m from a $50m budget (like they have here), what incentive does he have to stretch himself either as a director or an actor, especially since he just turned 90?

Earl (Eastwood) was a star garden and flower supplier – a celebrity on the local trade show circuit as he sold his wares – and after putting more care and attention into his adulation than his own family, he put them all offside.

That's why years later, his wife (Dianne Weist) is estranged and his grown daughter won't even talk to him, only his teenage granddaughter wanting anything to do with him. Worse still, business has fallen on hard times and he's been foreclosed on, left with no family, no way to make money and only his battered old truck for company.

In a turn of events I'd ordinarily think would be a huge plot contrivance but which surely must have some basis in truth (including some movers who have shady links), he winds up accepting a gig running a load of drugs from a storehouse to its drop off in Mexico. The reason they pick him is because, as an old white man, he's not a hothead who's going to joyride, speed or catch the attention of the cops.

One job turns into several and before long his friends and community are enjoying Earl's largesse. He also finds money can't buy his family back and it's while he's on the road and a dogged federal agent (Bradley Cooper) is on his tail that he tries to reconnect with them to varying degrees of success. Worse still, some of the top lieutenants of the cartel boss (Andy Garcia) decide to depose their leader and take over, leaving Earl without his highest-ranking protector.

Like a lot of Clint's career, it's middle of the road, a bit bedraggled and a bit tired, like he didn't really want to miss his 9am Metamucil or lunchtime whiskey. And I know it's about the juxtaposition of an old guy and his truck versus a cadre of gangbangers with Glocks in their belts, but the scenes of him mingling with bikini clad chicas at an opulent party at the drug lord's mansion (especially when the master of the house sends two of them to bed with him) is really kind of cringy.

It's a crime thriller that doesn't really have any thrills and a completely non-taxing crowdpleaser.

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