The Mule (2018) ***

January 22nd, 2019
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Clint Eastwood | Writ: Sam Dolnick | Cast: Bradley Cooper, Clint Eastwood, Manny Montana, Taissa Farmiga | US Thriller | 118′

Clint Eastwood digs up the story of American horticulturalist Leo Sharp and shovels it out as a plodding but endearing drama about a geriatric, green-fingered drug mule.

Most people won’t have heard of Leo Sharp. He was a popular plantsman who tended his award-winning day-lilies until his business went belly up in the digital age. Directing from Nick Schenck’s laboured script, Clint Eastwood plays him as savvy entrepreneur Earl Stone, who seizes the opportunity to finance his dwindling days by becoming a driver for the Mexican Sinaloa Cartel.

The life and soul of any gathering, stone is an old school charmer for whom work is always a pleasure but family a chore –  and we feel his pain as he potters around in a state of perpetual regret for disappointing his nagging wife (Dianne West) and daughter. Infact, all the women in The Mule are seen in a negative light either nagging or as gaiety girls flashing their assets –  his grand-daughter is the exception (Taissa Farmiga gets the best female role).  Maybe there’s more of Clint in Stone than he’d like to admit.

And that’s not all. The DEA (in the shape of Bradley Cooper and Michael Peña) are on his tail, at a snail’s pace. Cooper does his stuff with consummate ease and follows Stone across the scenic landscape and the two compare notes on family faux pas. And clearly Clint relishes his role as he sallies forth on the open road, singing out loud at the wheel of his truck, a rather sly old curmudgeon one minute, and twinkly-eyed Roué the next. And what man wouldn’t when offered a threesome with Mexican babes.

The Mule is a slow roadie with a wonderful central performance from a Hollywood great. Still rocking into his nineties and in command of his faculties. There are few politically incorrect moments – and for a man who grew up in the 1940s you’ve got to appreciate how times – and attitudes – have changed. And when he delivered his acceptance speech at the Day-lily awards, Clint should have quoted Dorothy Parker’s famous line: “You can lead a horticulture, but you can’t make her think”. That said, The Mule is a respectable movie. And Clint is still a legend. How many of us can say that? MT

ON GENERAL RELEASE FROM FRIDAY 29 January 2019

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