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The Mule

To be classified as a ‘reliable performer’ doesn’t mean you have to be boring. Director and actor Clint Eastwood has been far from that. Having directed movies for nearly fifty years, he knows what makes a good story. Whilst he’s had his share of mis-fires, his hit ratio has been high. ‘The Mule’ finds him gliding towards the twilight of his career in style. Derived from real events, ‘The Mule’ is another engaging tale benefitting from Eastwood’s gnarly presence.

Ninety year old war veteran Earl (Clint Eastwood) is estranged from his family and facing financial ruin. Searching for ways to make cash, he becomes a mule for a Mexican drug cartel. Due to his age, he arouses little suspicion as he criss-crosses the country with a car full of cocaine. Events take a dark turn when the activities of the cartel’s boss Laton (Andy Garcia) attract the attention of DEA agents Colin (Bradley Cooper) and Trevino (Michael Pena). Earl swiftly faces danger as he becomes caught in the cross-fire where a deadly outcome is assured.

Clint Eastwood knows the role of Earl is a perfect fit for him. A stubborn free-spirit whose actions have caused harm in his familial relationships, Earl is a man continually seeking new horizons. Being a drug-runner isn’t exactly a virtuous job description but it re-energises Earl in unexpected ways. Almost playing like a geriatric version of ‘Breaking Bad’, ‘The Mule’ is an amiable drama with lashes of humour and pathos not giving too much for Eastwood to bite into.

‘The Mule’ is far better than Eastwood’s recent output which has been poor. Although lacking true authenticity with Eastwood’s thespian vanity in full display, the creaky story is consistently watchable with fine performances. His direction also makes America’s vast countryside a ‘character’ within this peculiar tale with its expanses hiding the dark underbelly in which Earl resides. Had more dramatic depth been woven into the narrative ‘The Mule’ may have been more memorable.

A good Clint Eastwood movie is preferable to a dull one with ‘The Mule’ sitting in the mid-range of his cinematic catalogue. His advancing years finds him contemplating his mortality amidst the gritty glamour of the drug trade. Time will tell if this is his swan-song but Eastwood has left a legacy of films sure to resonate long after his mortal departure.

Rating out of 10: 7

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