To make me sound like a proper reviewer, I’ll say I was invited to a pre-screening of the upcoming Clint Eastwood directorial and not mention the fact that I spent Christmas with my fiancé’s family in Toronto and it’s already released out there… so here it is, my VIP pre-screen review of The Mule.
I’d heard nothing about it, I don’t know whether to put that down to my own negligence or that the advertising onslaught had not yet begun in the U.K. So it was refreshing to wander into my very own Screen Unseen.
The film opens with a very frail-looking Earl Stone (Clint Eastwood), working his way around function rooms at flower show –he’s a renowned flower enthusiast (an anthophile?) and has people flocking to him. However, fast forward 10 years and the business has dried up due to the internet and with it, his farm has been foreclosed and he’s struggling for money. Money being the one thing that he felt kept him in favour with his family.
Now with neither money nor familial respect, Earl Stone finds himself alone with his old pick up truck until someone at his granddaughter’s engagement party sees an opportunity. Hearing Earl announce he’s hit over 40 states without any tickets, he offers him a potential job.
All Earl has to do is drive from A to B with a package and it’ll be swapped out for a nice payment. As the first one goes well, Earl sees no reason why he shouldn’t keep going, rising to become one of the best smugglers in the Mexican Cartel, looked after by a strangely hospitable cartel boss, Laton (Andy Garcia).
Of course, it can’t go well for long, can it? But you’re old, white American, so you ride it out the whole way, Earl, don’t worry about the bodies that pile up around you.
Eastwood touches on race, with fleeting glimpses that aim to bridge the gap between the old, white, ‘that’s what they were called in my day’ generation as Earl builds rapport with the employees of the cartel, offers to help a ‘negro’ couple change their tyre and is a deterrent for police as, at one point, he states that he picked up the cartel guys with him at Home Depot to a suspicious policeman.
I don’t know if this was meant to be a caricature of the old white male or an accurate portrayal of white privilege in America?
As for the narrative, it’s exciting, funny at times and it does play out nicely, teases a finale without all the druglord shootouts and purges of gorgeous Medellin type mansions.
Although the above doesn’t sound like it, I would actually recommend it, the pacing works and although occasionally jarring, seeing an old white guy mix with the cartel, being genuine and not an SNL skit allows for strong comedy moments (look out for the road trip sing-a-long).
I’d give it 3.5/5 flicks.
Snack rating: butter popcorn, cream soda and starburst a strong 8/10