Sunday, March 31, 2019

Video review: "The Mule"

Clint Eastwood is almost 90 and still cranking out almost a movie per year as a director/producer. Many of us thought he was done appearing in front of the camera after 2008’s “Gran Torino” and 2012’s “Trouble with the Curve,” but here he is in “The Mule,” playing a nonagenarian who becomes a courier for the drug cartels.

It sounds like Hollywood hoke, but it’s based on a true story written up by Sam Dolnick, which formed the basis of the screenplay by Nick Schenk.

Eastwood plays Earl Stone, a horticulturist who’s reaping a golden years beset by regret because of a lifetime treating his family as secondary to his other passions. When his farm is foreclosed upon he hears about a chance to make some quick cash.

It’s a pretty simple gig: some people put bags in the back of his battered Ford pickup, he drives it a few states over, parks it in a certain spot and leaves the keys in. When he comes back, the bags are replaced by wads of cash. It isn’t hard to suss out what’s going on.

Gradually Earl grows more and more confident in his new venture, spreading money around generously in his hometown. Unbeknownst to him, a crafty DEA agent (Bradley Cooper) is seeking out the legend of “Tata,” the cartel’s sneakiest mule.

Tonally, this is a strange film. It starts out very fun-and-games, becomes a cat-and-mouse chase in the middle and then turns toward tragedy in the last act. Each piece works well on its own, though they don’t especially mesh.

“The Mule” is the sort of film you sit back and enjoy, but afterward wonder what it all was really about.

Bonus features on Clint Eastwood flicks tend to be rather sparse -- the old-school director isn’t much for promoting his material -- and this one is no exception. There is a making-of documentary, “Nobody Runs Forever: the Making of the Mule” and a Toby Keith music video, “Don’t Let the Old Man In.”



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