The Mule Review - A Solid Bet, Clint Eastwood Carries the Cartel Drama

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The Mule, from Warner Bros., presents the story of Earl Stone, a World War II Vet, who at 90, after deep financial distress cost him home and family, begins driving cartel shipments from El Paso to Chicago.

Directed by and starring Clint Eastwood, The Mule also stars Bradley Cooper, Michael Pena, Andy Garcia, Taissa Farmiga, Alison Eastwood, Dianne Wiest, Laurence Fishburne, Jill Flint, Clifton Collins, Jr., Manny Montana, Saul Huezo, Lee Coc, Robert LaSardo, Katie Gill, Noel Gugliemi, Loren Brown, Ignacio Serricchio, Victor Rank, Daniel Moncada and Lobo Sebastian.

The Mule was inspired by the New York Times Magazine article “The Sinaloa Cartel’s 90-Year Old Mule” by Sam Dolnick and written by Nick Schenk.


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The Mule begins at the engagement party for Ginny, played by Taissa Farmiga, and after a scathing humiliating rant by his ex-wife, Mary, played by Dianne Wiest, and being intentionally ignored, and essentially told to leave by his daughter, Iris, played by real life daughter Alison Eastwood, he heads over to his well-worn truck.

The boyfriend of one of the bridesmaid’s follows him to the truck and the two begin to talk. We see the back window of the truck has a row of state stickers across the bottom, memories from bygone road trips and the bed is filled with boxes.

He explains he has some friends who are looking to find drivers with a good records and if you’re interested, the pay is good and it’ll help with the flowers for the wedding. With a soft spot for his granddaughter and an empty wallet and a house in foreclosure, he is left with little options.

Soon we see him driving up to the “tire store” in El Paso, Texas. The door opens and three homies, played by Lee Coc, Robert LaSardo and Saul Huezo, give Stone explicit instructions and he drives his weathered truck out of the garage and so begins his life as a drug mule.

As this is happening, we meet Special Agent Colin Bates, played by Bradley Cooper, and his Number 1, played by Michael Pena. Agent Bates has to produce results or he is stuck in El Paso, and while he is dedicated to the job, he prefers to be in Chicago.

The Special Agent in Charge is played by Laurence Fishburne who explains the fastest way home is to make busts. The border is hot and the word is the temperature is rising.


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After they secure an informant, life becomes easier and soon the informant is forced to prove his worth or face jail time from the feds or death after watching his family killed from the cartel. Soon they have the shipment manifest and are preparing to bring down the entire organization.

Stone continues on his runs, and while he understands what he is carrying, it’s unclear he understands the value of the shipments. After breaking a record for kilos ferried, the boss, Laton, played by Andy Garcia wants to meet at his hacienda.

The Mule, which is inspired by true events, is good. A road film, Earl Stone liteerally made more than a dozen runs without detection. Without the determination of the DEA who preferred Chicago and an informant who preferred life, Stone could have delivered until he died.

The film is well directed, the audience clearly understands the season Earl Stone is facing. Some of the dialogue is a bit glib, and possibly because when one is 90 one doesn’t take oneself too seriously. 

The film has three separate components all working toward the finale. And the pieces flow well, the cartel scenes are lavish and well played, as one would expect new money to show itself and as Cartels go, the money represent power to the deeply impoverished nations.


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The film is factually interesting and in actuality Stone, at 90, is a bit ho hum. He was actually quite a boring guy. Not that his profession as a horticulturalist, his war stories, or the general negation of the elderly as viable members of society made him boring. He was a member of the greatest generation, did his part and when it came time for the government to repay he was disenfranchised.

Until he had some extra cash, a fine new American made truck, and women, two at a time treating him like he was forty, he was just a guy, a dad, and grandfather who lived and waited to wake up the next day. 

Clint Eastwood plays him the same, attempting to dispense advice to the cartel is like handfeeding sharks, and we see the distinction. Eastwood carried his scenes effortlessly, he was genuinely believable. I guess folks would say he still has it. And in reality he does. He delivered with authenticity. The entire cast, from the Cartels thugs to the DEA all acted with validity and truthfulness.

The Mule is one of those films where the cinematography is as much a part of the film as the cast, and as Stone drives from Texas to Chicago the audience is shown some beautiful country. The White Sands National Monument is stunning. Throughout the film we see many references to collective beliefs. From age groups, to race, to the electronic generation the references show how little we know about people outside our boundaries.

The Mule is a well running machine. Smooth, it is straightforward and delivers without any hype. It’s a solid bet. See it.

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