The Mule (2018)

Coming to Cinemas 24 January 2019

Nobody runs forever.

Clint Eastwood reunites with the writer of 2009's Gran Torino to direct and star in this crime drama about an elderly war veteran who smuggles cocaine through Michigan for a Mexican drug cartel. Co-stars Oscar nominees Bradley Cooper and Laurence Fishburne, as well as Michael Peña (Ant-Man) and Taissa Farmiga (The Nun).

Eastwood stars as Earl Stone, a man in his 80s who is broke, alone, and facing foreclosure of his business when he is offered a job that simply requires him to drive. Easy enough, but, unbeknownst to Earl, he’s just signed on as a drug courier for a Mexican cartel. He does well—so well, in fact, that his cargo increases exponentially, and Earl is assigned a handler. But he isn’t the only one keeping tabs on Earl; the mysterious new drug mule has also hit the radar of hard-charging DEA agent Colin Bates (Cooper). And even as his money problems become a thing of the past, 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.

Trailers

Directed by

  • Clint Eastwood('Gran Torino', 'American Sniper', 'Million Dollar Baby', 'Unforgiven')

Written by

Crime, Drama, Thriller

116mins

Rating: M Coarse language and nudity

USA

Clint Eastwood stars and directs in this tale of an aged drug mule, from a based-on-a-true-story screenplay by Gran Torino scribe Nick Schenk. Octogenarian Eastwood plays 90-year-old Korean war vet turned horticulturalist Earl Stone. His flower farm’s foreclosed and he’s struggling to make ends meet when he’s offered a job as a driver, no questions asked. Although, to be fair, if you rolled up to collect a suitcase from stereotypical muscled Mexican gang members covered in neck tattoos, waving sub-machine guns in your face, and telling you not to look in the bag, you might be a tad suspicious.

Not Earl though.

Singing along to old songs on the car radio as he smuggles huge quantities of cartel cocaine, Eastwood’s Earl is a grumpy old git, stooped and shuffling, mumbling such gems as “Damn Internet ruins everything” in an old-school/casually racist/misogynistic/doesn’t understand texting kinda way. Clint’s chiselled charisma carries the plodding plot, whilst a star-studded supporting cast fills out underwritten, cardboard-cut-out characters. Bradley Cooper, Michael Peña and Laurence Fishburne phone in their performances as DEA agents, Dianne Wiest does her best as Earl’s long-suffering ex-wife, as does Clint’s daughter Alison as, um, his daughter, and Andy Garcia’s cartel don is given little to do other than wave a gold-plated shotgun.

Clint’s direction is solid as ever, with little fuss or show, aside from one great shot (literally) of Garcia’s don. A smattering of f-bombs, almost no on-screen violence, a wry twinkle in Clint’s eyes, and a narrative that barely touches on the issues raised, from the morality of drug-smuggling to espousing outmoded, politically incorrect views, and the regret felt by a man realising too late he’s put work before family. There’s an attempt at Robin Hood morality, as Earl seeks to make up for lost time, using his ill-gotten gains to help others, but it’s not until the very end that he all-too-briefly reflects on his culpability.

Long-time Eastwood fans may enjoy the legend’s craggy face and dry humour, but the subject matter deserves a better script, one that’s not reliant solely on the fading charisma of its star.

TimeOut (New York)

press

Tonally, this thing is a disaster, and you can only conclude that its maker, capable of sharp ironies as recently as 2014's American Sniper, didn't fully digest the material.

Vanity Fair

press

I am a fan of Eastwood's films, which means I've learned to value the fact that they are more nuanced than Eastwood's public statements about his political beliefs.

New York Times

press

Because the movie never builds to something greater than its parts, Eastwood ends up blowing raspberries and floundering for meaning in a void.

Rolling Stone

press

It's the detours on Eastwood's road movie - the stops along the way that show an old man dealing with the dim possibilities of change near the end of his life - that reveal this drug-mule-in-winter drama as a deeply personal reckoning.

Hollywood Reporter

press

Less cranky and inciting than Gran Torino but persuasively expressive in conveying an old man's regrets along with his desire to improve himself even in late age, The Mule shows that Eastwood's still got it, both as a director and actor.

Los Angeles Times

press

For one thing, though the feeling sneaks up on you, "The Mule" has an unexpected emotional kick.

The Guardian

press

As a drama, it's frustratingly insubstantial, failing to provide enough of an emotional centre or a convincing payoff.

Variety (USA)

press

This isn't the role that will earn Eastwood a legion of new fans, but it's almost sure to delight those who appreciate him already.