The Mule Review
If you're a champion of white people rights and want to watch a privileged old dude do some bad things and call them good, then you're in for a treat this weekend with Clint Eastwood's The Mule. The rest of us will have to go on with our lives
Eastwood plays Earl Stone, an old man who has lost his flowers business to the advent of the Internet and lost his family to his selfishness. When he gets an opportunity to make some cold hard cash for driving loads of cocaine across state lines, he grabs the steering wheel with both hands. Soon enough, he has drug cartels and DEA officers on his tail.
This isn't the story of an old man coming to terms with his own mortality or righting some wrong before his time on Earth comes to an end. This is the story of a shitty old man looking for new shitty excuses for his shitty behavior now that the old shitty excuses have run their course.
Eastwood constantly puts himself (or his young straight white alpha male replacement Bradley Cooper) front and center of attention through most of the runtime instead of giving more screentime to his diverse cast, which actually sinks the film. For all of the attention showered on him, Earl is a racist, sexist, selfish, horny white man with no redeeming qualities except that he can still see the road without glasses while driving at his age.
Yet, he gets the hero treatment for being a drug mule. Every single creative decision taken by Eastwood and writer Nick Schenk is in service of Earl and of absolving him of any blame for any of his actions. Sure, there's the predictable lip service with Earl having an "awakening" and attempting to make things right but it's only to give the character a redemption arc that's more unearned than the drug money he makes.
The film conveniently never addresses the other side of his "noble actions", the number of lives that must have been lost due to the drugs he smuggles, the families that he must've destroyed, all faceless collateral damage of him doing whatever he wants without a care for the consequences because he is a racist white male in America. Eastwood plays himself through most of the film, randomly throwing out insulting and offensive comments about colored people and then grinning while feigning ignorance about what he said wrong.
For a veteran filmmaker like Eastwood, there is no narrative flow whatsoever. In fact, the film is more ebbs than flows. There's not a single scene that ends in sync with the beginning of the following scene and every change of scene is a visual, audio and narrative jerk bigger than Earl himself. The performances don't really dig the film out of a hole either, with Eastwood droning through ordinary dialogues and Cooper trying his best to not take the spotlight away from his real-life mentor.
After 2 hours of watching Clint Eastwood attempting to immortalize himself one last time (hopefully?) and airing all of his inappropriate thoughts and rants through the most wide-reaching medium, you will be left reevaluating your life and wondering if being a racist and a selfish prick really is the best way forward to success.
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