At one time a legendary Western star, the famous Clint Eastwood set his sights on directing and writing more realistic dramas that were meant to appeal to his dedicated fans. The result have been some rather dark, gritty movies that star the legend himself. So this weekend, the next film in his arsenal came out, looking to copy his formula and bring with it another dark tale that could potentially be just as formulaic as the next film. Going in with low expectations, I was not too excited to hit this film. What was the verdict? As always Robbie K, is here to share his opinions as he reviews:
Film: The Mule (2018)
The Acting: It’s Clint Eastwood, so you know what you are getting with the man when it comes to his style. Taking his usual gritty tone with gruff presentation, edgy words, and a blunt approach that lacks any filter Eastwood will still appeal to his tried and true ways. Yet, this film sees him adding a little more lightness to his role, bringing some comedy to the mix that feels natural and no longer forced. In regards to the rest of the crew, they hit their usual stride in regards to this kind of character with Cooper having the single-minded focus of tracking down the bad guy in that smoldering manner he does, Michael Peña, being that quirky side kick that is again okay, but not quite displaying his full talents. As for the cartel members, nice displays of stereotypical roles, but not fully diving into the members given the theme of this film. This is definitely an Eastwood focused film, so he’ll do most of the lifting.
The Story/Character Development: Stereotypical and predictable, but still a deep dive into character development, The Mule accomplishes what many films strive to do. It takes the central character and begins to mold them into something new, no matter where they start. The realistic journey over the course of Earl’s journey shows him gradually seeing the light and adjusting life based on the new needs, sometimes hitting blocks, but never so much ignoring everything in the journey to start from square one. It works quite well, especially in the small integration of other characters, helping to display the lesson of teaching others as they teach you, aka the passing of the torch to future generations. This rich focus will appeal to the key demographic, and may also impress some others that have the open mid to give Eastwood’s drama a try.
The Pace: As I said before, Eastwood’s dramas are a little too slow for my taste, especially given the dark tones they take. Yet this film somehow managed to take a detour down the freeway it seems, because it moved quite well for me given the facets of the plot. Despite the look of the trailers, the team did a job of adding some joys of life to the mix, embedding some natural comedy to lighten the tones, and establish an adventure as Earl goes up and down the U.S.A. roads. The integration of these components makes for a better adventure than I could have imagined, and helps bring more people into this particular tale. The new momentum it brought was much more entertaining for me and definitely a plus.
The Realism: My final like is the fact that the movie is still keeping in touch with the realistic side of things. The Mule does have its share of soap opera dynamics, but it doesn’t plunge so far in that it steers away from the realistic component. As such, it’s a relatable tale that is appealing to follow and potentially learn from.
Secondary Characters Flat: It’s tough to balance all the plates of characters in a film like The Mule. Nevertheless, there was some ground to still cover when it came to the secondary characters. Some of the cartel members that were important to the plot felt very flat, the richer stories and relationships deep down in their sulking forms. Why they didn’t focus better on the relationships, boggles me when that dynamic would have been an enjoyment to watch. In regards to the DEA story, it serves it’s purpose as well, helping to establish the chase component of the film that a drama like this needs. Yet, this component still could have had some better integration as well, helping to actually feel like a mystery instead of these checkpoints serving to remind us there was another story going. I didn’t so much enjoy this parallel plot approach, but then again it could have been worse.
More Suspense: An Eastwood film is known for some edgy experiences to keep you on the edge of your seat, or perhaps make you sweat just a little. The Mule sadly didn’t hit that mark for me despite its best attempts. Perhaps it is the lighter aspects that diluted the normal rough and gruff edge he is known for. It could be how predictable the plot is, meaning fewer surprises for me when you see them coming. Or maybe it was the fact that the secondary characters weren’t so integrated to give the thriller it wanted as mentioned above. Whatever the reason, the lack of suspense still made the film a little duller than intended.
The Ending: Does the finale make sense and fit into the plot? Yes. However, while I appreciate the direction in regards to the character development and the tale wrapping up, it completely derailed the momentum the majority of the film established. The last 20-25 minutes completely changed the course of the film, once again dulling my interest and mood as they turned the corner. At this point, the wrap up was mercifully approached, but not before dragging everything through the mud and leaving me feeling extremely low. Not my favorite conclusion, but I’ll acknowledge their direction from story telling aspect.
The Mule is one of my top films of the Eastwood legacy of thrillers. It has character and a realistic portrayal of someone looking for changing even in the late stage of life that will appeal to much of the target audience. Acting wise it’s solid, presentation is straight and to the point, and the new atmosphere of adding light touches of comedy and happiness, make for the more entertaining of the bunch. Still a lack of suspense and use of the other characters takes away from the complete story and suspense that we wanted. Overall a solid film though, and worth seeing in the theater if you are looking to take an Eastwood fan to the movies, but otherwise stay the course for home viewing for this one.
My scores are:
Movie Overall: 6.0