Movie Review: The Mule
R | 1h 56min
Director: Clint Eastwood
Stars: Clint Eastwood, Bradley Cooper, Taissa Farmiga
by Jason F. Koenigsberg
If you are looking for a return to form from Clint Eastwood in the first film he has produced, directed, and starred in since his phenomenal work in Gran Torino (2008) a decade ago, well you are going to be supremely disappointed. If you are just excited to see Clint act on the big screen again in a fairly typical melodramatic morality play then The Mule is just what the doctor ordered.
It is kind of a joy getting to see Clint Eastwood acting, producing, and directing himself at age 88. He still has a fire inside him and this is his second directorial effort of 2018 after the very odd 15:17 to Paris released back in February. This is also the eighth time he has directed two films in one calendar year, a feat very few filmmakers ever accomplish in their careers. The Mule is based on a true story and it is easy to understand why it brought Clint back in front of the camera to act again, but the script was just not worthy of his talents or anyone else involved for that matter.
The opening shot is of a bed of flowers in a nursery. The purple and yellow colors stand out right away and this is an inspired choice as it ties in with his character and the final shot of the film quite neatly. The actual look of the film is rather ugly which is very unusual for a Clint Eastwood film. The cinematography has a blue tint to almost every shot that made me want to go to the editor’s booth and color correct the whole darn movie. Clint Eastwood does not always make a terrific picture (although I enjoy most of his filmography) he seldom directs a downright ugly picture which is what The Mule is.
The story is quite simple. Clint plays a down on his luck old guy who loses his flower business and gets foreclosed by the bank. He needs money and in a lucky and very coincidental break, he gets a connection transporting drugs thousands of miles across the country for a dealer. He has a unique distinction of never getting a traffic ticket so that makes him appealing to the dealers. His character is rather loathsome as the audience learns he has constantly neglected his family for his work, whatever jobs that may be.
The music was more upbeat than the usual Eastwood score. It was much more lighthearted and reminiscent of Rolfe Kent’s music from the movie Sideways (2004). Besides Clint, The Mule has a very talented cast of Oscar winners and nominees including Bradley Cooper, Laurence Fishburne, (both of whom worked with Eastwood once before), Andy Garcia, and Dianne Wiest. They all perform well with very minimal screen time. No doubt they agreed to work on this film not for the money but for the chance to be directed by the legendary Eastwood. None are given a chance to really shine. This is Clint’s show front and center. Once again, that is not something audiences have been blessed with in quite some time and that is really the only reason anyone should see The Mule.
The film moves slow, is predictable and has peculiarly ugly cinematography. It is nothing special, just another morality tale about how crime does not pay and you end up on the losing end one way or another. We have all seen this story before and done better. The Mule is for the die-hard Clint fans only.
There are better choices at the multiplex right now. Plus this is all I ever think of when I hear the title… “heh heh mule”