REVIEW: The Mule 
A relevant and timely film filled with serious themes for Filipinos to learn from.
PEx Rating: 7.5/10
Clint Eastwood at the age of 88 has been on Hollywood long enough that some people might say he must retire from film making and better spend his time with his family. But the man shows no signs of slowing down and continues to create films that shows American way of life, patriotism and history. Or maybe, as a man of age, he just wants to show to everybody that he can still do anything (even acting for a threesome scenes) and that was his character in The Mule is all about.
In 2008, Eastwood starred in and directed Gran Torino (2008) from writer Nick Schenk. A decade later, the duo collaborated once again in the loosely based adaptation of The New York Times article "The Sinaloa Cartel's 90-Year-Old Drug Mule” by Sam Dolnick which recounts the true story of Leo Sharp who became a drug courier for the Sinaloa Cartel in his late 80s. Two films that feature Korean War veteran and Eastwood has nobody in mind for the leading role rather than himself.
The Mule centers on Earl Stone (Clint Eastwood), a nonagenarian horticulturist that has estranged relationship with his family because he loves his job more than anything. He is a careless man that loves cursing, speaks “****” or “negro” and listens to music while driving on the road. A champion for his peers but not to his own family. When the Internet starts to cause financial troubles, he was pushed to become a drug courier - “a mule” for the Mexican cartel. A one-time deal that soon becomes a habit.
It is a character-driven film and thus it relies heavily on Eastwood skills in front and behind the camera. Portraying as the lead, he is physically fit for his age and embodies the role similar to his performance in Gran Torino. His unapologetic and friendly take provides humor most specifically for being sexist, racist and horny. But the fact that even his screen appearance of just driving and singing in a car is entertaining enough, which validates his choice that nobody is ever perfect to embody Earl Stone than himself.
Moreover, all those things are due to his skills behind the camera. He ensures that even simple scenes will keep the audience invested to it by providing beautiful scenery during the driving scenes, a dramatic conversation during his family interactions and to the tensions created every now and then by a drug cartel and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
It is surprising that the script is full of humor given that the trailer suggests it is a heavy drama and thrilling film. The film moves like a donkey at times at times has questionable plot points but overall it unfolds just fine until the end. While Earl Stone story is driving straight ahead, other characters are just tagging along. Which makes its diverse supporting cast in the likes of Laurence Fishburne, Michael Pena, etc. are underused. The scene where Colin Bates (Bradley Cooper), a DEA Agent, taking advice from Earl Stone in the bar is the only time Bradley Cooper shines. This is the part where the film asserts why family is always important.
The third act is the point where most of dramatic moments comes from and will literally make you cry. The phase where Earl Stone finally realizes that he can’t run forever, from his family, from the DEA and from justice. It does not end in a bang but it is done right.
The film is filled with themes such as sexism, racial prejudice, stereotypes, family importance and above all the crimes involved in illegal drug economy. Also, it provides commentary on how advancement in technology affect jobs and the modern generation’s reliance on mobile phones. Even the casting choices shows that racial inclusion is important and yes, even from our own in the form of Eugene Cordero as Luis Rocha.
The Mule may not be a Clint Eastwood career’s finest but the story of Earl Stone is a relevant and timely film filled with serious themes for Filipinos to learn from.
Director: Clint Eastwood; Written By: Nick Schenk; Starring: Clint Eastwood, Bradley Cooper, Laurence Fishburne, Michael Peña, Dianne Wiest, Andy García; Running Time: 1 hour and 47 minutes; MTRCB Rating: R-16
Images: Warner Bros. Pictures
The Mule opens January 30th in select Ayala Malls Cinemas.
Check out the official discussion thread here: The Mule