Movie Review: ‘The Mule’ gets 6.5/10


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Grant Wheeler

The Mule is directed by and stars legendary actor Clint Eastwood. The film is loosely based on the later life of Korean War veteran Leo Sharp (named Earl Stone in the film) who is down on his luck as a horticulturist and is offered a way out of his situation by the Mexican drug cartel. Bradley Cooper stars as the DEA agent charged with tracking down Stone and the cartel members that employ him. What we are left with is one of Eastwood’s more memorable films in years.

In many ways, the film feels like an extension of 2008’s Gran Torino– also directed by and starring Eastwood. This is a film about aging, redemption and family.

The plot’s pace is a slow burn and it plays out a lot like a western. The film is a “one last ride” story that takes us to a lot of emotional heights, but fails to hit at several points due to dead-end subplots that don’t go anywhere and abysmal acting from the supporting cast. Had Eastwood spent a little more time focusing on some of the shortcomings in the script/screenplay near the film’s final act, I think the result may have been leaps and bounds better than the actual final product.

Eastwood’s performance is equally heart filled and heartbreaking. Bradley Cooper’s role is also captivating and engaging– in fact, there’s rarely a dull moment between the two (especially when they share the screen together). The cat and mouse dynamic between Eastwood and Cooper is where the film truly shines and is at its best. Sequences with the family and the cartel are where the film lacks impact. Way too much time is spent on focusing on Eastwood’s family in the film, and had the supporting cast been stronger here, this probably wouldn’t have been too much of an issue. 

This is arguably one of Eastwood’s greatest looking films. The driving sequences are engaging and the landscapes of western America have rarely looked this gorgeous in a film of recent history. The music and score in the film works in harmony with the cinematography, amplifying the experience and keeping scenes tense, emotional and interesting. Eastwood’s directorial style works in this film. I could hardly see anyone else making it.

I felt a lot of the substance in this film is found in between the lines. This film has a lot to say about the current state of the justice system and its treatment of minorities. I would venture to say that this film is one of Eastwood’s more progressive films and I for one found that really refreshing. This is not a bad film by any means. It’s just a film with a lot of problems towards the end. The film is a return to style by Eastwood, but still finds ways to think outside of the box and introduce us to some fresh themes not usually found in the rest of Eastwood’s filmography.

This is a film that has shown that Eastwood has grown as a director. A contemporary western with some new ideas rarely waded in by films of this style. I’m sure casual viewers will find something to take away from this film and anyone who is a fan of Eastwood’s work should feel right at home.

My rating: 6.5/10