The Mule Movie Review
If there is one thing that Clint Eastwood does right in The Mule, it’s that he succeeds in establishing that Clint Eastwood is really old. Eastwood spends two hours acting and looking really old, and even behind the camera his oldness exudes every pore of the production.
The Mule, a critically maligned but an under-the-radar audience hit that racked up $166 million worldwide, is about a really old dude who is/was sort of a shitty husband and father who attempts to make amends by paying for his granddaughter’s wedding—but without a traditional job, he turns to transporting drugs for a Mexican drug cartel.
Meanwhile, DEA agent Bradley Cooper spends his days racially profiling people who believes to be the mule.
The Mule is a modestly entertaining if oddly simplistic movie that seems to go out of its way to be as predictable as possible and avoid any form of satisfying payoff whatsoever. Those expecting Eastwood, who plays a former horticulturist, to go all Gran Torino on the drug cartel—let alone do anything that even suggests he is aware of the moral or legal implications of the actions he takes, regardless of his underlying motivations—will be sorely disappointed.
In fact, if you’re expecting much to happen at all, you’ll probably be disappointed.
“Stuff” does happen—Eastwood transports drugs, he gets in fights with his family, he buys a new truck, and he acts like he gives zero fucks about what his dangerous bosses wants him to do—but The Mule just plods along, never too slow, never boring, but never amounting to much of anything. As with many of Eastwood’s other recent directorial efforts—most notably Sully and the terrible 15:17 to Paris—he seems unable to fill the time with the central plot.
Instead, we see glimpses of the stunningly bland DEA investigation and, more interestingly but still filler, behind-the-scenes politicking among the drug cartel members.
The main plot—a 90-year-old Korean vet who gets caught up in the drug trade—has more than enough meat, but Eastwood seems uninterested in fleshing out his own character or showing any kind of depth or emotion. It’s hard to tell whether he’s a badass or completely naïve to how much danger he’s in at all times, but some of his decisions seem downright moronic.
Despite its many shortcomings, The Mule has its appeal, if only because an old Clint Eastwood has made a straight-laced movie aimed at an older white audience. Eastwood’s character, despite what he does for a living, is a refuge of goodness among some pretty seedy dudes. The whole thing feels outdated and old school, but there’s still an audience for that.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.