Rough but insightful view of the true story of an 88 year old man’s experiences as a mule for a drug cartel, with some autobiographical overtones for Eastwood in the foolish sacrifice the main character makes of his family in preference for his business life.


Adults only for language, topics, and environments which include wild parties, drugs and scantily clad prostitutes.



I admire those who make movies that are completely politically incorrect. It takes great big brass bowling, base, golf, and basket ones to do so in this day and age. And that’s what I love about Clint Eastwood – and he must have a large collection of sports equipment. At the age of 88, with a repertoire of films including cultish Spaghetti Westerns like The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, action icons like Dirty Harry, directorial accomplishments like American Sniper, even comedies like Paint Your Wagon (did you know before The Mule he could sing…well carry a tune) and masterpieces which he has directed and starred in like  Gran Torino and Unforgiven, I do not think Clint Eastwood has anyone to prove himself to or fear but God.

There is a wise saying: If you can’t be a good example, be a horrible warning, and Eastwood’s main character, Earl, is that person who, by his own warning, is not someone whose behavior you would want to adhere.

The Mule is about an elderly man, Earl Stone who, at the end of his rope financially and anxious to make amends with his estranged family, becomes a transport for a cartel of drug dealers. Earl has spent his love and devotion on an ultimately unsuccessful day lily nursery instead of his family. With this in mind, the movie becomes a horrible warning against living a misdirected life with the day lily as a wonderful symbol of the brevity of our time on Earth which, like our lives, blooms for a day then fades.

While Earl’s motives in the movie may be noble and the money he earns is spent on worthwhile events: his daughter’s wedding and the renovation of the local Veterans Lodge, it does not excuse his participation as one of the links in the drug trade which destroyed so many other people’s lives, even as he was reinvigorating his own. The story is based upon the real life Leo Sharp, featured in a New York Times article by Sam Dolnick.

I heard it speculated that there was an element of autobiography for Eastwood in this story. Not that Mr. Eastwood has ever conveyed illegal pharmaceuticals for Mexican drug lords, but that Eastwood, much like the character he portrays, in his pursuit for fame, financial security and business success may have felt he traded his family life for an ambitious career. It is a fine line to walk, between working hard to care for your family and to trade your family for your work.

Eastwood is a fine character actor, who has made a career of portraying the same interesting, likeable character in a wide variety of movies. There’s little difference among the likes of the cheroot chewing Blondie in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, looking down the barrel of the very big gun of Inspector Calahan in the Dirty Harry franchise, the singing Pardner in Paint Your Wagon, the scheming eponymous character in Kelly’s Heroes, the stubborn but surprisingly kind Walt Kowalsski in Grand Torino or Earl in The Mule. All of them face the world with the same gritty, teeth grinding, begrudgingly amused side long view. All of them are tough guys who mean well at their core even when doing something they know is wrong. All are portrayed with the gravel-voiced determination of a man with whom you do not want to cross swords.

But in The Mule, Eastwood is willing to openly show the fragility of his old age which, even so, does not stop either Earl, the Mule or Eastwood, the director, from soldiering on in this slice of life movie.

The acting is wonderful. Dianne Wiest portrays his wife, Mary, with all the intimacy of betrayal in a failed marriage between two people who have loved each other for decades. Bradley Cooper plays the determined DEA agent who pursues Earl to the exclusion of family events, and in this way discovering, perhaps in time, he has much to learn from the misaligned Earl. And Andy Garcia portrays the deceptively likeable drug lord Laton.

If this happens to be the last movie the aging Eastwood is in, it would be a fitting denouement and ties in some of his most recent accomplishments. For example, Cooper, who plays the DEA agent in pursuit of Earl, and Eastwood, worked together before on American Sniper. Eastwood had once offered to direct Cooper again in Cooper’s then planned remake of A Star is Born, but Cooper wasn’t ready for the role. Eastwood later encouraged Cooper to direct A Star is Born himself and history was made with that interesting film, which I reviewed here.

In another tie-in with old friends, the credit’s song, Don’t Let the Old Man In, was written expressly for this movie by Eastwood’s friend and golf buddy Toby Keith, inspired by a comment Eastwood made to Keith about how to keep going despite age. Keith wrote and sang the tune as a demo and sent Eastwood a copy. So anxious was Keith to have Eastwood hear it that Keith sang it while struggling with a bad cold. Eastwood loved the rough, dark, weary feel of it and used it exactly as Keith had recorded it for the movie.

And most touching, Eastwood’s own real life daughter Alison came out of acting retirement at the behest of her Dad to play Iris, Earl’s estranged daughter.  Alison commented in one interview that the most difficult part of playing Iris was pretending to be estranged from the man who played her character’s father, her own Dad.

Filmed with a certain fatalistic feel, knowing this can not end well, we ride along and are seduced into empathizing with the amoral Earl as he bounces from attending his granddaughter’s wedding to a multi-hooker party at his cartel boss’ mansion.

Other reviewers have noted that Eastwood, with Mule, is signaling his bestowal upon Bradley Cooper of his outre mantle, a blessing of sorts to Cooper, the accomplished and busy actor and director who still finds the time, energy and whimsical playfulness to bring Rocket’s voice from Guardians of the Galaxy to life.

In medical school there is a name given to the prize for the student who made the top grade in Anatomy – “The Ball and Chain”. The implication being that you have set yourself up for a high bar to continue to have to leap over. In The Mule there is a telling and touching scene where Earl, the mule which Cooper’s character, Colin Bates, has been doggedly pursuing, sits down next to Colin in a diner. Colin has no idea who Earl is, so underestimated is Earl for the better part of 10 years of drug running because of his age and otherwise clean record. Earl knows who Colin is and proceeds to give what appears to be off hand advice about not committing himself to his career to the exclusion of his family. In retrospect was this Earl to Colin or Clint to Bradley…or both?

I find it courageous that Eastwood not only exposes his own human aged physical frailty to an audience which has grown up and grown old watching him move from an action hero to an increasingly fragile man, but makes himself vulnerable to inquiries about his own interpersonal failures. Much like most in Hollywood he has had his share of failed relationships and left a trail of at least 7 children.  And it takes a measure of brave self-perception to admit, even if only tangentially, that you may have failed to do your best to put your familial ties ahead of your own ambitions.

While not for a younger crowd due to topics, language, and sexuality, for the adult crowd it is a fascinating examination of how easy it is, one daily mistake at a time, to lead your life down a long wrong path in a way that can do permanent and irreparable damage to those you might find too late you love most.

Kudos to Mr. Eastwood. And while I hope this is not his last film, if it is, it is not a bad bookend to his cinematic legacy, and a fitting epitaph to a man whose devotion to and accomplishments for the cinematic world, have been remarkable, even if it may have come at great personal sacrifice.



Forgettable, crude and violent dark comedy about pill-form marijuana, drug lords, murder, kidnapping, adultery and boardroom betrayal.


Don't bother. Go watch What’s Up Doc? Instead.


In the 1972 slap stick comedy What’s Up Doc? there is a suitcase full of fossils which gets mistaken for a similar bag full of diamonds, which looks like another bag full of top secret government papers, which is the same shape and brand of luggage that is full of underwear. The suitcase full of fossils is really not worth much to anyone except its owner. However, because it is mistaken by different people at different times for other bags which are more valuable it gets: switched, stolen, moved, thrown, kicked, hidden; endures having to go along for the ride during a kidnapping; suffers through a high speed car chase; is sequestered in: a messenger boy’s bike basket, a Chinese dragon, a Volkswagon; is dunked in the ocean; and dragged into court as an exhibit.

What’s Up Doc? is a VERY funny throwback to the old 1930's and ‘40's screwball comedies of Frank Capra, Billy Wilder and Howard Hawks. Now imagine if you WERE that suitcase, your perception of just how humorous this all was, would be quite different.


The premise of Gringo is that Harold, a nebbish shlimazel (a fearful timid, unlucky loser) played by David Oyelowo (Lincoln, Interstellar and The Cloverfield Paradox) is sent to Mexico to help negotiate a deal involving pill form medical marijuana in Mexico for the pharmaceutical company he works for. Little does he know that: his company is about to merge and he is expendable, his boss, Richard (Joel Edgerton – Star Wars as the young Uncle Owen, Red Sparrow, Bright) has sent him to deal with a Mexican drug lord because he is expendable, and his wife is leaving him FOR his boss so that in his marriage he is…expendable.

Things go pear-shaped very quickly when Harold finds these things out and he decides to fake his own kidnapping with the help of some low rent motel managers who think he is more valuable to his company than he is, ultimately triggering pursuit by a Mexican drug lord who mistakes him for the "boss," which results in the hiring of a reformed mercenary with a conscience who is given conflicting orders which, in turn, challenge his new found repentance. Harold, in case you missed the point, is the bag of fossils – a fitting analogy since he has stagnated in one place for a long time, only to be buried and ignored by the people to whom he is loyal. "Why is it I am always getting s*&^%ed for doing my job!" Harold wails.

This movie, directed by Nash Edgerton (Joel's brother) is often very and unnecessarily violent, (including someone getting their toe chopped off by a Beatles-loving drug lord), vulgarly sexual, and filled, not just with profanities but exceptionally crude blasphemies.

Even if you cut it to play on TV in the 1970's during the family hour, and even though it is a fast paced complex story and occasionally amusing, there is no real point to the convolutions and travails we watch this poor man endure.

I liked Oyelowo as Harold. He has good comic timing and is kind of sweetly adorable. Though Harold does contribute to the chaos, his actions are understandable given the nefarious characters who have placed him in a completely untenable situation. I’ve seen Oyelowo in drama and comedy and he has now demonstrated he can carry a leading role. I would love to see him tackle a more worthy project.

Charlize Theron (undoubtedly an accomplished actress who can do comedy, drama, sci fi, action and schmaltz in such varied movies as: Prometheus, Monster, Sweet November, and Atomic Blonde) as Elaine is her usual sexy, crude and simulateously charming self (though she was much better on the streets in Atomic Blonde than as a boardroom killer here.)

Joel Edgerton is Richard, Harold’s duplicitous, cuckolding boss, an office hustler you can’t wait to see get his comeuppance.

But I think my favorite character was Mitch, played by Sharlto Copley (the lead in the off beat sci fi District 9, King Stephan in Maleficent, and Murdock in 2010's A-Team feature). Mitch is Richard’s brother. Mitch is a reformed mercenary, now a mission worker in Haiti, who Richard bribes to first rescue, then to murder, Harold, dangling the prospect of cash for the orphans now in Mitch’s care. There is a surprisingly touching and thoughtful interchange between Mitch and Harold about God. Harold is devout and prays for deliverance while Mitch does not believe in much of anything. It is unfortunate that one of the funniest moments in the movie is at this point and has been played in the trailer. Mitch is the only aspect of this movie which deserves any contemplation. A hitman turned philantropist, who is suddenly confronted with the moral conundrum of whether to sacrifice one innocent man to alleviate the suffering of a hundred children. The difficulty is compounded by Mitch’s express declaration that he is an atheist. Realistically Mitch has no reference point except his own conscience, the surprising turns of events which can only be described as Divine intervention, and the admonition from a man Mitch does not believe Divine that "Greater love hath no man…."  There is a nice resolution to this little subplot but does not make up for the vacuousness of the rest of this movie.

Had Nash Edgerton incorporated more underlying philosophical consideration into the filming, Gringo might have elevated itself towards Pulp Fiction territory. As it is, it is merely a forgettable romp.

Gringo is "appropriate" for only a slender demographic of the adult population – mature grown ups who, nonetheless, can find a few laughs in exceptionally crude humor and violence.

I say go find What’s Up Doc? It is a far funnier movie and one you can show the entire family.