The 88-year-old actor is at his best in this true story of a senior citizen-turned-drug runner trying to make up for past mistakes.
The Clint squint, so signature in Mr. Eastwood's work, is beyond prolific in his new film, "The Mule." Let's face it, there's not much to smile about when you're transporting drugs for a Mexican cartel.
Inspired by the true story of a 90-year-old former horticulturist-turned-drug runner, Earl Stone (Clint Eastwood) has made poor choices for most of his life. He's been a constant source of disappointment to his family and now is destitute. When he's offered a job to "just drive" and make a delivery from the Midwest to El Paso, Earl agrees to do so but has no idea as to what the cargo is. After a few runs he discovers that he's moving drugs, and he's already hooked on the high that the money provides. There's no turning back.
When Earl begins making amends with his estranged family and committing charitable acts, life is good. But the handwriting is on the wall and Earl chooses not to read it. DEA agents (Bradley Cooper and Michael Pena) are closing in on the cartel but their least likely suspect is hardly a gruff and grumpy senior citizen, right? Not until a reluctant informant spills his guts. The jig is up.
Eastwood also directs this methodically paced and engaging film, heavily peppered with humorous musings. There are some subtle and not-so-subtle political commentaries buried in the dialogue, which deal with profiling, technology and "the good old days." But Eastwood's Earl is such a charmer, he's allowed some indiscretions. And at age 88, Eastwood is on top of his game in "The Mule." He also looks dazzling in a sear sucker suit with a Panama hat, by the way.
The cinematography captured on American highways and back roads is serene and quietly amazing. Eastwood opts for classic old tunes on the radio as scoring instead of the piano savvy ones he's known for in the past. It works beautifully. Dean Martin's rendition of "Ain't That a Kick in the Head" will have you tapping toes, singing and laughing.
"The Mule" is basically a story about misplaced priorities and the price one pays for them in the end. But there's some fun along the way. And who wouldn't want to take a road trip with Clint Eastwood?