A complicated man, a look into ‘The Mule’

Recommendation: 3/5 Stars, STREAM

Plot: “A 90-year-old horticulturist and Korean War veteran is caught transporting $3 million worth of cocaine through Illinois for a Mexican drug cartel,” according to IMDB.

Review: Clint Eastwood movies all have something in common — throughout, they carry a certain grit, grime and unapologetic attitude.

His study of Earl Stone, a 90-year old horticulturist, is no different. Earl is a complicated man devoted to his work, absent from his family and focused on being the best but the economy and the rise of the internet changes things for Mr. Stone.

Circumstances and a chance meeting provide a new opportunity as a drug mule running product for a Mexican cartel; a job Earl takes without a second thought. When wrapped together in a package, the film sticks true to the Eastwood format.

The dialogue in this film can, at times, feel emblematic. It can also feel forced as if it was meant to shock you for no other reason than to shock. If you shook your head at the racist and narrow-minded things Eastwood uttered in “Gran Torino,” well get ready to have your head involuntarily moving once again. This writing is supposed to root us in the shoes of a man who time has passed by, but for me, it served as a distraction from what was a compelling story about a man running drugs and the interests of the leaders he serves.

Bradley Cooper serves as a tool to ground this entire film. Playing an FBI agent who is breathing down the neck of Earl as he crisscrosses the country, we get a sense of why it was so hard to stop a 90-year drug mule. In many ways, the FBI was oblivious to the fact that this kind of person could be capable of such a thing. As we approach the center of the film, we get the sense that Earl could do this forever, that is until betrayal at the highest levels of the cartel spells disaster.

When Earl meets his new leaders, we know the end is near. We know Earl will be caught. This creates two questions: When and what loose ends will he tie up before the end. The first question takes longer than expected to be answered, because of the depth of his involvement. The second question means Earl making amends to his family. These scenes are the most powerful of the film. They leave you with a singular thought; the only thing worse than being a late bloomer is not blooming at all.

With each Clint Eastwood film, he defies time and our expectations. More often than not, I applaud his commitment. For me, this film missed the mark. It is by no means bad. It deserves to be streamed from the comfort of your living room, but when compared to other films in his illustrious career, it was quite average.

Be good to each other.


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