by Daniel Mohr
Loosely based on true events, Clint Eastwood’s latest film, The Mule, offers a unique take on crime thrillers of recent years, as it tells the story of an everyday man who starts working as a drug smuggler for the Mexican cartel.
At first glimpse, Earl Stone (Eastwood) is just another charming and essentially well-meaning old timer with nothing but good intentions, who finds himself out of a job and without a place to go to. As soon as a new job opportunity arises, he jumps right at it, as it simply requires him to drive. In the beginning, Earl considers the drug runs across the country as enjoyable road trips and does not care much about the consequences of his actions. But as the stakes grow higher and an ambitious police officer’s (Bradley Cooper) investigation gets under way, the job becomes more dangerous.
More than anything, the film works as a character study of the main protagonist. With his slightly racist remarks, criticism of younger generations, weakness for women and a serious problem with his family, which he has been neglecting for years, Earl’s character is well grounded in reality. Similarly, his past mistakes and misplaced priorities make him a sufficiently complex character and a perfect match for the Hollywood legend’s talent.
Eastwood excels both behind and in front of the camera thanks to his undeniable onscreen presence and precise directing that prove this industry veteran’s worth at a time when most others would have quit. The film may have a slow start, but once it picks up its pace, your heartbeat will surely follow suit.
The Mule might not reach the same quality of other films in the director’s heyday, but, at 88, Clint Eastwood still has it, and manages to deliver a decent and fairly tense piece.