Reel Reviews: The Mule

By Josh Simpkins


From a trail-dusted, tough as nails cowpoke to a grizzled, no-nonsense, baseball scout, Clint Eastwood has breathed life into many interesting and dynamic characters over his storied career. He will forever be remembered as Dirty Harry Callahan; however, my favorite character of Clint’s is Bill Munny from his 1992 dramatic Western, Unforgiven. Back both behind the camera and before its lens, Clint brings to the big screen one of his most compelling films yet in The Mule—starring Clint Eastwood (Trouble with the Curve), Alison Eastwood (Finding Harmony), Bradley Cooper (A Star Is Born), Dianne Wiest (Sisters), Andy Garcia (Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again), and Taissa Farmiga (The Nun).

The Mule follows Earl Stone (Eastwood) a down on his luck, 90-year-old horticulturist and Korean War veteran estranged from his family. Unfortunately, internet flower businesses have driven Earl into foreclosure. With nowhere else to turn, Earl shows up at his granddaughter Ginny’s (Farmiga) birthday party, however his daughter, Iris (A. Eastwood), causes quite a scene. Before he can depart, Mary Stone (Wiest)—Earl’s ex-wife—realizes that Earl is there looking for a place to live when she sees all his possessions in his beat-up old truck. In the meantime, one of Ginny’s shadier friends gives Earl a business card and tells him he knows someone who is hiring drivers. Good money, no questions asked. The next thing Earl knows he is delivering millions of dollars in drugs for Mexican cartel El Jefe Laton (Garcia), and making a ton of money for himself. Meanwhile, the DEA has brought in a new hot shot agent, Colin Bates (Cooper), to try and catch drug dealers and traffic into the U.S., including a new threat: “El Tata.”

With money in his pocket Earl, a.k.a. “El Tata,” buys a new truck, rescues his home from foreclosure, and helps to rebuild the local VA after it was gutted by a fire. Earl even attends Ginny’s wedding, but continues to find Mary and Iris cold and distant. Mary tells Earl that if he truly has changed, it will take some time and effort—acceptance won’t be instant. With the DEA closing in, Laton brings Earl to Mexico to meet him. Unfortunately, his underlings feel they can do a better job and murder El Jefe. The new boss cracks down on Earl, not giving him the leniency to do the runs his way because there’s too much money at stake. The DEA hot on his heels, new boss crueler then his old boss, and his family finally accepting him back into the fold, Earl must walk a fine line to maintain the fragile house of cards his life has become.

Written by Nick Schenk (Grand Torino) and directed by Eastwood himself, The Mule—based on the true story of World War II vet Leo Sharp—is a compelling, crackerjack drama that reminds us why we have loved Clint Eastwood for 60+ years. Although this film covers a grim and gritty story, it has a light-hearted feel and a refreshing sense of humor. Eastwood is amazing in his dual roles of leading actor and film director; reminding audiences how huge a screen presence he has no matter how old he gets. I highly recommend this film. Now, go to your local cinema and have some fun at the movies.