The Mule

COMIC DRAMA; 1hr 56min

STARRING: Clint Eastwood, Bradley Cooper

Drive, they said: Eastwood back in action


When 90-year-old Illinois horticulturalist and deadbeat dad Earl Stone (Eastwood, who, naturally, also directs) first makes an entrance in this incredible-but-true tale, it’s 2005 and he’s kicking back in a bar when he should be giving away his appalled daughter, Iris (Eastwood’s real-life daughter Alison). Twelve years later, nothing has changed: Earl is skint, Iris isn’t speaking to him and his ex-wife, Mary (Dianne Wiest), is royally cheesed (despite plainly still carrying a torch).


And so it goes that one way down or another, Earl is unwittingly recruited as a drug mule for a Mexican cartel. Having shuffled to his own poppy tunes for so long, Earl is the Forrest Gump of cocaine traffic. By the time he does what he should’ve done at the jump and unzips one of the bags he’s been carting in the back of his spiffy new pickup truck, he’s too hooked on cartel cash to quit, despite his horror at what he finds. (Duh, Earl! Beware swarthy dudes with guns in anonymous garages!)


This, in other words, is a kinder, gentler Clint than Gran Torino’s lawn-hogging grouch. At 88, Eastwood is still unassailably cool, bringing the fun—believe it or not—to high-stakes skulduggery, even while hounded by a condescending cartel martinet (Ignacio Serricchio). Earl is basically having a blast, but no party is permanent, and between a cartel shake-up (aka death), DEA Agent Bates (Cooper) in hot pursuit and his own redemptive crisis of conscience, his life of crime is in imminent danger of flameout. Not that that’s any cause for concern, since Earl’s soft landing is all but assured. In this rosy Eastwood spotlight, sunshine outstrips shadows by a country mile and supporting actors happily do their bit in generic roles. Why wouldn’t they? Their director is a legend in a throwaway age. And even the hippest stayers tend to mellow with time.