The Mule, with Clint Eastwood, Bradley Cooper, Dianne Wiest, directed by Clint Eastwood. 4/5
At 88 years old, Clint Eastwood is still making excellent movies, and often acting in them too.
In The Mule, Eastwood plays Earl Stone, a Korean War veteran and passionate grower of flowers – particularly day lilies – who loves mingling with people and being the life of the party at flower exhibitions and conferences.
But he pursued his floral interests to the detriment of family relationships – the biggest wedge coming between him and his daughter when he decided not to attend her wedding.
Now, a dozen or so years later, the flower industry has changed and Earl’s personal touch has lost out to the convenience of internet-based flower orders. His business folds and he even loses his house to a bank foreclosure.
As timing would have it, his granddaughter is getting married, so he shows up for her pre-wedding celebrations, all his worldly possessions packed in his beat-up old pick-up truck. His granddaughter is happy to see him, but his angry ex-wife (Dianne Wiest) and daughter (Alison Eastwood) are not. He and his daughter haven’t even spoken in 12 years.
They suspect he only showed up out of need and will fail to keep his promise to help pay for the wedding. Earl knows he is not welcome and is about to leave when a wedding party member chats to him about all the stickers on his pick-up showing how widely he has travelled across the United States.
“And I’ve never got a ticket,” Earl says, which piques the man’s interest. He gives Earl a contact number for someone looking for safe, reliable drivers. And that is how 90-year-old Earl becomes the most unlikely drug mule for a Mexican drug cartel.
Needing to make some cash, he takes up the offer and sticks to the rule to not ask any questions or look inside the bag in the back of his pick-up, just to deliver it as directed.
Once he gets his first payment he is hooked by the easy money. He is able to win at least some favour with his family by paying for the open bar and flowers at his granddaughter’s wedding.
He buys a new car for his drug runs, and you know he’s got to have guessed what is involved even before curiosity gets the better of him to look inside the bags. But he continues his work faithfully, transporting hundreds of kilograms of cocaine and pleasing the cartel boss (Andy Garcia) who wants to meet him personally.
Meanwhile the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is stumped that drug trafficking has been so successful and the pressure is on hard-working agent Colin Bates (Bradley Cooper) to make some busts. The DEA has been unable to nail Earl because they are not expecting an old man to be delivering drugs, but thanks to roping in an informant, they have some leads.
To add to the tension, the cartel criminals are capricious, dangerous and violent.
When Earl’s past mistakes start to weigh heavily on his conscience, he must decide whether to right those wrongs before law enforcement and cartel thugs catch up to him.
After a family tragedy it all comes to a head for Earl, the cartel and the DEA.
The Mule is well-worth watching, and is inspired by true events.
BY JON HOUZET and NTOMBENTSHA MSUTU