27 September 2023

The Mule

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Reviewed by Rama Gaind.

Producer/director: Clint Eastwood, Roadshow Entertainment.

Cast: Clint Eastwood, Bradley Cooper, Michael Pena, Laurence Fishburne,
Andy Garcia, Dianne Wiest.

Winner of four Oscar statues, actor/director Clint Eastwood returns to work on both sides of the camera in The Mule after Gran Tarino in 2008.

While the earlier project was commended, this film has gone under the radar.

It’s an astonishing true story in which Eastwood takes on the main role as Earl Stone, a horticulturist and Korean War veteran. The octogenarian is alone, broke and facing foreclosure of his business. It’s too good to be true when he’s offered a job that simply requires him to drive.

He accepts an implausible run; one that he was admittedly propelled into by financial insecurity. He becomes a drug mule, transporting unbelievable amounts of cocaine for a major Mexican drug cartel. In fact, he does so well that his cargo increases ‘exponentially’ and his money problems disappear.

However, the surprising new drug mule has also come under the scrutiny of hard-hitting DEA agent Colin Bates (Cooper, A Star Is Born, Avengers: Endgame).

Earl’s past mistakes start to weigh heavily on him and it’s uncertain if he’ll have time to right those wrongs before law enforcement, or the cartel’s enforcers, catch up to him.

This abundant, gripping grown-up drama is a ‘slow burn’ that develops stealthily. Building on the cinematography and atmosphere, 88-year-old Eastwood, who has had a legendary career, is in no hurry for this narrative to be end. He’s an avid, prolific storyteller because we get to experience the anxiety he feels on his trips, especially the first. While money is an enticement, we also become aware of his choices of work over family. Years later, his reflections of regret are heartfelt.

Together with an admired cast, The Mule tackles several of Eastwood’s favoured themes including remorse, clemency and the inescapable reality of our mortality.

Blue-ray copy has special features like the Making of The Mule and Toby Keith’s Don’t Let the Old Man In music video.

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