The Mule: self-indulgent true crime story from Clint Eastwood

My feelings on Clint Eastwood have always been that it isn’t that he isn’t talented, he’s just not talented enough for us to put up with him. His regressive politics and sensibilities that were painfully out of touch in the seventies and haven’t changed since, the casual good ol’boy racism, misogyny and homophobia, and worst of all, the fact most of his films are just deathly boring. His one or two good movies just aren’t worth the bad ones.

So it’s bearing that in mind when I say that this is almost okay. There was some stuff in here that genuinely shocked me with how dated it was, huge parts are desperately uncomfortable. But there were also a couple of scenes that I could see being really effective in a different movie.

It’s based on a true story, although the names have been changed, about an elderly veteran who starts working for drug dealers in order to finance his attempts to make amends for decades of neglecting his family.

Eastwood actually acts fairly well in this, I mean we all know this is the exact same role he always plays, but he looks frail now, there’s a vulnerability there, and a touch of Henry Fonda circa On Golden Pond to his gently shuffling performance. Bradley Cooper plays a federal agent vaguely on his tail and his scenes are by far the worst part of the movie, there is some truly terrible dialogue and he’s just such a punchable, bro-ey presence. His collaborations with Eastwood definitely bring out the worst in him, but in American Sniper he at least seemed to be trying. All I can say is thank God for Dianne Weist as Eastwood’s ailing ex-wife, she is giving so much more than this dialogue deserved and actually almost made the movie work for a minute.

Whether you enjoy this is going to depend heavily on how easy you find it to overlook that sort of thing. Most will probably find it easier than I do but when I see a Hispanic man being pulled over being terrified of the police played for comedy or Eastwood giving himself not one but two threesomes with women a third his age, it just shoots my desire to like his movie in the face.