There is an understanding within the script that essentially becomes the film’s driving force, and Eastwood clearly wants that to remain at the forefront of The Mule’s output
Touted as Clint Eastwood’s last ever turn to acting, paralleling The Old Man And The Gun with Robert Redford, The Mule shows true love for its lead as it exists around the perfect Eastwood role, supplying a true to life and thoroughly engaging story.
Alone but driven, Earl (Clint Eastwood) is an award-winning horticulturist struggling with declining sales despite his reputation for top quality bulbs and flowers. Fighting against the rapid rise of internet sales proves too much, and Earl’s business is left unsustainable, letting go of what he has loved for so long. Estranged to the majority of his family, his options are limited, but after transporting an unknown package across state, Earl soon realises he can make an easy pay-packet, even if that means throwing any morals he has left out of the window.
The Mule is far more than just another drugs movie. At times it almost becomes a coming-of-age drama, offering many of the themes and notions usually reserved for much younger characters. There is an understanding within the script that essentially becomes the film’s driving force, and Eastwood clearly wants that to remain at the forefront of The Mule’s output. Earl is constantly old fashioned and outdated in his ideas and his thoughts, but there’s a shift in his acceptance of reality as the story moves on that is both pleasant and unexpected.
Yet this quiet, progressive movement is almost completely destroyed by one particular scene. A brief moment, perhaps only two minutes of screen time, offers women as objects and possessions, annihilating the movement Nick Schenk’s script tries put on Earl’s morals. It feels out of place despite the drug cartel themes, and even as a reality check it does not work. There’s a change in Earl’s character and personality that does not match that of rest of the film, alienating the story begging questions as to why such a directorial decision was made at all. It feels like a reason for Eastwood to act with women in revealing outfits, rather than anything story related or theme driven.
Aside from this one film-altering scene, The Mule is intriguing and engaging, offering a little respite from the heavier, Oscar bait films clogging the release schedule. It’s a shame that the scene did make the final cut, but Eastwood can move on happily proving he still as the edge to make a thoroughly watchable character piece.
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