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Clint 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. 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.
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There is poignancy to the character that Eastwood embodies and the story he attempts to direct. Finding resolution with the family that he never went to see, and with himself as a person. Presenting an argument that change is always possible, no matter the circumstance. Sometimes we need to take the wheel and control our own lives. However, due to the light-hearted nature of the narrative, this compelling philosophy never sticks. In fact, there is an obscene lack of dramatic heft that ultimately makes this drama underwhelming. He tries though! Gosh darn Eastwood gives it his best shot. At 88 years of age, the man is defying all odds and still helming his own films. He has this infectious charm and "old-man" quality to him that automatically makes us believe in him. And, let's be honest, only Eastwood could portray a casually racist veteran and still make him endearing. The rest of the cast? Forgettable. Their characters were neglected and remained one-dimensional. The DEA investigation was underdeveloped and provided no thrills. The dysfunctional family relationships with Earl weren't powerful enough to convey any emotional impact. Heck, I felt more invested in the cartel members than I did his ex-wife. Without the drama, none of the above sticks. Like I said, watching but not seeing.
Schenk's screenplay does play a big role in this film's disappointing end result. Aside from the last third where Earl's words do have meaning, it's just constant mumbling. "Yup, on the road again. Just on the highway. Just driving. Hey boys! I'm driving. How do I text?". It's clear that the target demographic is of the older generation who will find many of these lines utterly hilarious, particularly the "dykes on a bike" scene. But it's perhaps too light-hearted for the story that Eastwood is trying to convey. There is no grit to his character or his words. Not to mention the plot conveniences that make the script amateurish at best, especially how Earl quickly found himself in the drug couriering industry just because "I never had any tickets and I've never been pulled over by the cops. No sir!". It's naively charming, but naive regardless. Much like Eastwood, the whole film just felt tired.
It's a pleasant slow watch which I'm sure many will appreciate from the legendary Eastwood. However its repetitious drug runs and absent drama will leave some wanting to pull over and stop, particularly by the ninth run. Oh, and a 90-year old man in a threesome with two women? I had to look away...
A wee bit of a slow start to this film till you get to discover what and old rascal this guy is. A really good story develops and although the ending is predictable the film is very entertaining. Both Andy Garcia and Bradley Cooper contribute well to this film.
character slowly learns that the Mexican drug cartel now own him. The second half racks up the tension
and Bradley Cooper is fine in support as the humane but no nonsense DEA agent.
The actors playing the cartel members are very well cast and Clifton Collins Jr excels as the most ruthless
of them all. Although Collins plays a totally venal character he also exhibits a "cool" not seen on the screen
since Dennis Hopper was in his prime. Small wonder Mr Collins next role is in Tarantino's much anticipated
ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD.
In the tradition of great American road movies THE MULE really scores.