At least it’s not The 15:17 to Paris
Synopsis: Broke, alone and facing foreclosure on his business, 90-year-old horticulturist Earl Stone takes a job as a drug courier for a Mexican cartel. His immediate success leads to easy money and a larger shipment that soon draws the attention of hard-charging DEA agent Colin Bates. When Earl’s past mistakes start to weigh heavily on his conscience, he must decide whether to right those wrongs before law enforcement and cartel thugs catch up to him. (Rovi)
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Bradley Cooper, and Michael Peña
Writer: Nick Schenk
Director: Clint Eastwood
Rating: 14A (Canada)/R (United States)
Running Time: 116mins
After a colossal misstep with this past February’s The 15:17 to Paris, director Clint Eastwood hopes to change his past fortune by stepping back in front of the camera in The Mule. While it is not as large of a misstep as his last film, it is nearly as misguided. Inspired by a New York Times Magazine Article entitled “The Sinaloa Cartel’s 90-Year Old Drug Mule“, Eastwood plays a man named Earl Stone, a 90-something horticulturist Earl Stone takes a job as a drug courier for a Mexican cartel. Broke and alone after being disowned by his own family and losing his business to the internet revolution, Stone was looking to try and get both back so he turned to the cartel.
What started as a one time thing inevitably became more (otherwise this would not have been a story worthy of a movie) and Stone would find himself going deeper and deeper with the cartel. He happened to be very good at his job therefore he would be entrusted with more and more dangerous work. Meanwhile, his ascent would eventually attract the attention of the DEA agents Bates (Cooper) and Trevino (Peña) though nothing would ever happen between them. He would also show up intermittently within his family’s lives to try and win them back but he would always seem to make things worse for them.
Clearly, Stone was not the greatest person but the god-awful writing did not give him much of a chance as he was literally all over the place for no reason whatsoever. From wanting to help his family and his local community, from having multiple threesomes with prostitutes, to the casual racism, it was tough to get a read on him. Having a 90-year-old man be a 90-year-old man in today’s society as well as with a bunch of stereotype cartel members was surely supposed to be funny, however, it was never funny and just got old very quickly. The family melodrama was so undeveloped which made it feel both manufactured and tact on. Suffice it to say that the tone was all over the place, never finding the right balance between humor and drama.
The worst part of the film was simply the fact that it was all just so boring, slowly putting you to sleep with a series of lazy and cliched writing. This issue started right at the top with Stone. He was an incredibly dull character who always seemed out of place (more so than what was intentional) in his own film. Additionally, the film poorly establishes the stakes to try and make the viewer feel bad for him thus giving him an unearned resolution. The DEA subplot literally goes nowhere and was virtually pointless, adding no tension or suspense whatsoever to a story that failed to present Stone any consequences for his actions.
The main reason why the film was so boring was Eastwood’s performance as Stone. His wooden, low-energy performance made him tough to watch as he didn’t do the god-awful writing any favors. For the most part, it was just sad to see him try and fail so miserably here at least performance wise (as a director, he was okay). Since the film was mostly Eastwood’s Stone, it pretty much wastes everybody else, most notably Cooper who was fine while having decent chemistry with Peña but neither did anything whatsoever which was perhaps the most disappointing part of the film.
Overall, this was a boring and low-energy mess of a drama that could never get off the ground, buried by god-awful lazy and cliche-ridden writing, leading to an inconsistent tone, terrible dialog, and manufactured melodrama. Not only does it waste Bradley Cooper, watching Clint Eastwood try and act was just sad. After The 15:17 to Paris and now The Mule, maybe Eastwood should just retire from acting and directing.