WHAT DO YOU do when the proverbial gift horse looks your way, and makes you an offer you can’t refuse? Earl Stone (Clint Eastwood) is an ordinary kind of 90-year-old divorced guy, who loves to garden much more than he likes family responsibilities. He won’t say no to a lush prostitute, either. As a result, at the time of his granddaughter’s wedding, he finds himself kicked out of his house with just a buggered old pick up truck full of miserable dog-eared memories to call his own. And then opportunity knocks, from the left field. And the title tells you all: he becomes a drug mule.
But don’t be fooled by the trailer of this film: it isn’t a violent skiet, skop en donder foray into hard drug culture, where life is cheap and the hero gets hardened. Similar in focus to the Robert Redford film A Man and a Gun, The Mule takes on the moral values of contemporary society and runs away with them: because of its basic premises, it’s a work which would not have been cut any slack in the pre-Code era of filmmaking as it glorifies felons. Even chance-made felons. And indeed, the evilness of hard drug culture is left as an implicit thread to the tale: this film is no moral exercise.
And from the first drug run, between a coke den that fronts as a tire shop and an anonymous looking motel, the work unfolds, giving you access to the wide landscapes of America, the beautiful sing-along thrust of romantic country music of a certain era, and the silliness of crooks. Little runs become runs weighing hundreds of kilos and worth millions of dollars. Money flows like water and Earl’s life changes rather radically for the materially comfortable. He even trades in his rickety old pickup for a black 4×4 one. As, it seems, so does everyone else on the road at the time.
And replete with crude racial stereotypes, that distinguish ‘gringos’ from drug lords, it ends as it must, with the bad guys behind bars or under the ground, but there’s a couple of schlocky detours that the yarn takes to allow our guy to reflect on loss, love and what matters most in life. With Stone’s ex-wife played by Dianne Wiest, behind a hilarious pair of cat-eye spectacle frames, even in her deathbed, the work is not without humour, and the complexity of truths that are too bizarre to believe.
The Mule sees a very elderly Eastwood at the authoritative helm of the piece. He’s gnarled beyond belief and replete with the cynicism and naivete of the previous generation, holds his own in a moral morass. Ultimately, it is his love for day lilies that wins the day.
- The Mule is directed by Clint Eastwood and features a cast headed by Paul Lincoln Alayo, Becky Altringer, James William Ballard, Kenny Barr, Dayna Bellenson, Pete Burris, Andrea Antonio Canal, Timothy Carr, Diego Cataño, Lee Coc, Michael H Cole, Clifton Collins Jr, Bradley Cooper, Eugene Cordero, Casey Corley, Scott Dale, Loren Dean, Felicia Dee, Cesar De León, Kinsely Isla Dillon, Adam Drescher, Alison Eastwood, Clint Eastwood, Donovan Elmore, Alexandra Erickson, Taissa Farmiga, Laurence Fishburne, Jill Flint, Keith Flippen, Austin Freeman, Almendra Fuentes, Andy Garcia, Katie Gill, Sandy Givelber, Chris Goad, Jaylon Gordon, Caroline Avery Granger, Kareem J Grimes, John Grove, Noel Gugliemi, Jay Gutierrez, Jan Hartsell, Alan Heckner, Leonard Hennessy, Cecil M Henry, Richard Herd, Rey Hernandez, Rene Herrera, Kaitlin Hodson, Saul Huezo, Mallory Kidwell, Tess Malis Kincaid, Jim Kirsch, June Klement, Joe Knezevich, Dylan Kussman, Robert LaSardo, Charles Lawlor, Angel Luis, Monica Mathis, Rashaan Matthews, Christi McClintock, Megan Mieduch, Daniel Moncada, Manny Montana, Gustavo Muñoz, Sparrow Nicole, Devon Ogden, Michael Peña, Jackie Prucha, Victor Rasuk, Patrick L Reyes, Billy Richards, Mia Rio, Ashani Roberts, Grant Roberts, Derek Russo, Milton Saul, Patti Schelhaas, Marco Schittone, Lobo Sebastian, Ignacio Serricchio, Jeffrey S Smith, Travina Springer, James Tilley, Javier Vazquez Jr, Sandra L Velez, Wes Weems, Jessica B Willingon and Dianne Wiest. Produced by Clint Eastwood, Dan Friedkin, Jessica Meier, Tim Moore, Kristina Rivera and Bradley Thomas, it is written by Nick Schenk based on a New York Times magazine article, called The Sinaloa Cartel’s 90-Year-Old Drug Mule, by Sam Dolnick, and it features creative input by Arturo Sandoval (music), Yves Bélanger (cinematography), Joel Cox (editing), Tara Feldstein, Geoffrey Miclat and Chase Paris (casting), Kevin Ishioka (production design) and Deborah Hopper (costumes). Release date, through Cinema Nouveau, Ster Kinekor: January 17, 2019.