Yesterday my bud and I met up at the Parramatta cinemas. I wanted to see The Mule, and David was happy to tag along. The movie has been released for weeks now and was a commercial success, grossing over $100 million at the global box office, more than twice its budget. Interestingly, the last Eastwood movie I saw at the movies was also with David. That was in 2015, when we beheld American Sniper.
Eastwood’s movies are dark, and this one was no exception. Based from the trailer, I inferred that this would be a slow, dull watch. My friend admitted that it was deliberate, but I found it more engaging than I had imagined. The film’s premise won’t be a secret by now. Eastwood plays Earl Stone, a hardworking octogenarian driver in Chicago who has no time for his family. His daughter hasn’t spoken to him in twelve years, and his sustained absence at family gatherings has made him a pariah among his own kin. He faces money problems, and his house has been foreclosed. At his granddaughter’s engagement party, the former Korean War vet is called into a job that sounds too good to be true. He is given packages that he is not to open, he must drive to an agreed drop off point, and wait for a call on a cell phone provided by his ‘colleagues’. Soon Earl’s financial troubles are a thing of the past, but Stone has unwittingly opened the proverbial Pandora’s box.
The movie tackles complex themes, including family, old age, and the drug trade. In particular, Eastwood’s years is a focal point in the plot. He is able to get away with a lot because of his advanced years, even evading authorities. He does not know how to text, but he can deliver the goods. Furthermore, he can get away with bribing a sheriff if only to deflect attention from his dodgy ‘workmates’. Indeed, at one point, he is able to outwit an FBI agent (Cooper) over breakfast at the inn. Bates (Cooper) suspected the whole building but never once thought that Stone was the mule. All throughout the picture, you can see him shuffling and looking dejected. On the flip side, his age also lets him become somewhat of an outlier. Since he’s 89, he stands out from the crowd.
Earl hauls in a lot of cash and is soon on his thirteenth run. He does this in his own style, with constant deviations and oldie music. These idiosyncrasies drive his handlers mad. However, his smooth driving catches the attention of the boss, and soon he is rubbing shoulders with the suits. All the while, he has no time for his family but makes up for it with an open wallet. He saves the veterans’ office, and even has time for women. Most importantly, he trades his old pickup for a brand-now black one. He is on the authorities’ radar but always seems able to slip away. They call him ‘tata’.
The feds are good, but it takes a while. From gathering evidence, planning and execution, intel to arrests, the process is arduous. They have a tall task ahead of them, and the cartel constantly improvises, leaving them with too little margin for error. Will they unmask tata once and for all?
Worth a look
Clint Eastwood assembles a stellar cast with Cooper, Lawrence Fishburne, Andy Garcia, Michael Pena, among others. The movie currently has a Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and I believe it’s worth a look. There is a lot to learn from this picture, much more than at surface level. Given it involves Mexicans, there’s even some Spanish dialogue thrown in there. Howzat!