Directed by: #ClintEastwood
Based on the true story of Leo Sharp, a WWII veteran misled into trafficking drugs for the Cartel, The Mule reunites Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper following their American Sniper success in 2014.
Eastwood plays Earl Stone (based on Sharp), a horticulturalist who has made enemies out of his wife and daughter, the latter by missing her wedding, seeking to make amends by paying for the wedding of his granddaughter (poorly overacted by the usually excellent Taissa Farmiga). By showing up to the pre-wedding brunch, he befriends a Mexican man who plays on Earl’s need for quick and easy cash. Before long, Earl is transporting large quantities of cocaine through Illinois and quickly grabs the attention of DEA agent Colin Bates (Cooper).
The Mule is an entertaining film, a genuinely interesting story taken at the right pace, though not Eastwood’s best work – it doesn’t reach the heights of gritty and fragile Gran Torino, or replicate the quality of acting found in American Sniper.
Instead, there is a confused relationship with race and exactly how The Mule wants to portray prejudice. This reflects in the muddled tone and a number of light-hearted moments attempted that don’t quite work.
Earl is a mess of contradictions – kind but racist, old-fashioned but in dire need of a new (glaringly obvious) pick-up truck, naïve yet intelligent enough to know he is breaking the law, hardcore but inconspicuous – and it just doesn’t captivate the way Eastwood’s roles have done so in the past. There was too much going on with him and not enough at the same time.
Cooper plays his usual charismatic, aviator-wearing self and some of the most touching moments in the film come from his scenes with Eastwood. Though there are only a few, the two have heavy chemistry on screen, their professional respect for each other reflected in the characters. It is surely a sign that the two should pair again in the future, though Eastwood has hinted he will stay behind the camera from now on. After all, this was his first acting job since 2012.
Nonetheless, he is still one of the most talented professionals in Hollywood, and whether he sticks to directing or returns to the screen for one or two more films, it will be a welcome return all the same.
Watch the movie trailer below.