Saturday, June 15, 2019

Movie Reviews: The Mule

The Mule
directed by Clint Eastwood
Although the plot seems improbable this movie was based on the real life exploits of an elderly man who became one of the Sinaloa Cartel's most productive drug mules. Earl Stone (Clint Eastwood) is a dashing award winning Illinois horticulturist and Korean War vet who has spent long amounts of time away from his family because of work. Earl can't seem to ever put family first. He can't even show up on time to the big events like weddings or funerals. As you might imagine Earl is divorced from his wife Mary (Dianne Wiest) and estranged from his daughter Iris (Allison Eastwood, Clint Eastwood's real life daughter). 

Iris dislikes her father so much, not least because he didn't show up to give her away at her wedding, that she won't even talk to him. In fact Iris often refuses to be in the same room as Earl, given a choice. The only family member that still seems to like Earl is his granddaughter Ginny (Taissa Farmiga).  Her mother and grandmother snark that's only because Ginny doesn't know Earl that well. Showing up at Ginny's bridal brunch, Earl ignores the hateful looks from his ex and his daughter and tries to have a good time. He can't really have a good time though because his horticulture business is kaput. 

He doesn't have the capital or resources to compete with internet delivery of flowers. Earl doesn't even have the cash to replace his ancient broke down truck. Earl complains briefly about his financial situation and boasts about his long record of spotless driving to a man who is friendly with one of the bridesmaids. This man gives Earl a card with a number to call.


Before too long Earl is hobnobbing with Hispanic-American gangbangers. His job is simple. People put bags in his truck. He doesn't look in the bags (with one notable exception). He drives where he's told to drive. Someone removes the bags and leaves an envelope stuffed with cash in his glove compartment. 

The local Illinois DEA Agents (Bradley Cooper, Laurence Fishburne, Michael Pena) are looking to make a big bust. To do that they will have to get a snitch who can tell them about the rumors of this new mule who everyone calls Tata (Grandpa). Although the local hoodlums have done their best via intimidation to impress upon Earl the importance of staying to a strict schedule, they actually like Earl as much they can within the framework of their jobs. They accept his quirks (ignorance about modern racial/ethnic sensibilities, mistaking lesbian bikers for men, his preference for old school jazz and country music, and his occasional pit stops to get laid) as a price of doing business. 


This changes however when the sybaritic and cheerful Cartel boss (Andy Garcia) is replaced by a much more serious minded and unforgiving leader (Clifton Collins Jr.) Earl will need to accept as never before that he's working for very dangerous people who demand their orders be followed to the letter. 

In the meantime Earl uses his newfound wealth to financially support charities, friends, and family. He's trying to use that goodwill to repair his relationship with his ex and his daughter. However, as you might expect there are some things money can't buy. This was a decent movie, albeit not a great one. It might have helped a bit if Earl had shown a bit more trepidation about getting involved with the sorts of people who murder your family if you mess up. We don't get to understand why Earl always put work and strangers first before his family. The movie had something to say about the importance of family but I'm not sure that Eastwood conveyed the full range of regret and sense of time wasted that the story deserved. 

As always with Eastwood movies, I enjoyed the soundtrack, which was filled with classic jazz music. It is also sobering to see someone I remember as a towering action movie icon turned into a frail looking old man. But that's what's waiting for all of us, if we're lucky...
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