The Mule Movie Review: Clint Eastwood’s Strong Performance Holds This Flawed Ride Together
The Mule Movie Review (photo credits: Warner Bros. Pictures)

He may be 88, but there is no stopping this man! Clint Eastwood continues to direct and even in movies with such dexterity that it amazes us. What's more astounding is how the legend picks up different genres for his projects, right from dramas, to musical to thrillers and biopics, not repeating the same one in his next. Not that everything works, but when it does, it is worth the stuff Academy Awards are proud of. The Oscar-winner's latest offering is the crime drama, The Mule, said to be based on real-life incidents. So how good is this one? Bradley Cooper Joins Clint Eastwood in The Mule.

Earl Stone (Clint Eastwood), a nonagenarian, is a former war veteran, who is currently eking a livelihood in being a horticulturist. His relationship with his family is strained, especially with his wife (Dianne Wiest) and daughter (Alison Eastwood), because he placed his work over them. When he forgets his grandaughter's wedding, an argument breaks out between Earl and his wife, where the latter accuses him of not helping the family when needed.

Frustrated, Earl accepts the job of being a mule, a man who transfers drugs from one place to another, for a Mexican drug cartel. Because of his age, Earl brings fewer suspicions on himself. As his trips increase, so does his confidence. Earl begins to outsmart even the suspicious cops, and he begins to enjoy the life that the money brings with itself. However, his good time is in trouble when there is a crisis of power within the cartel, while two DEA agents (Bradley Cooper, Michael Pena) close on them.

The Mule, while it has its moments, is definitely not one of Eastwood's stronger works. The premise offers very little surprise with the narrative progress reeling in predictability.

And yet it is neither among his weaker efforts too, since Eastwood manages to bring in an unexpected pathos into the story of a man who peddles drugs and even engages in an occasional threesome. The most fascinating factors about The Mule are definitely Eastwood and his character. On the face of it, Earl Stone is not exactly a very likeable character -  he knows what he is doing is wrong and how bad the consequences are, and he has no qualms in enjoying the benefits of his sins. However, it is these flaws that make him a very relatable character, who doesn't wish harm to others, at least directly.

Even his racial biases are a part of his system and not a measure to hurt others. Like that scene where he inadvertently calls a black couple whom he is helping out as 'negroes' and he never realises he is wrong to call so. Such tics may put some viewers off, but it is what makes Earl Stone a character as interesting as the ones we saw in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

And even if you are averse to such character traits, you will be reeled in by Eastwood's enigmatic performance. Balancing an act between perceived vulnerability and determined grit, the actor takes over charge in areas where the director in him falters. He is truly excellent in the scenes where he shows guilt in what he did to his family in the past, from a heartfelt conversation to his hospitalised ex-wife to a soul-baring discussion with a DEA agent at a lounge about not connecting with his daughter.

Watch the Trailer of The Mule here -

However, while his character develops, everything around him suffers. The whole DEA subplot is not very arresting, despite the presence of two wonderful performers as Cooper and Pena. Even Stone's family members, inspite of being the moral compass of the lead, gets precious little to do. Annihilation, Roma, Hereditary, BlacKkKlansman - 15 Hollywood Movies of 2018 That You Really, Really Should Not Miss Out On!

Thankfully, Eastwood holds a firm rein over the proceedings, making The Mule a riveting watch till the very end, without getting into OTT jinks.

Yay!

- Clint Eastwood, more as an actor than a director

- An engaging narrative

- Some emotional scenes

Nay!

- Supporting characters get less scope

- Fairly Predictable Saga

- Some Sexist Angles could have been avoided.

Final Thoughts

The Mule may not be one of Clint Eastwood's finer efforts but it is definitely worth a watch with its unusual setting and the auteur's fine performance.

Rating:3out of 5