The Mule Prefers Gardening Over Shooting Criminals in The Face (4K Blu-ray Review)

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The Mule arrives on Blu-ray/DVD April 2, 2019 from Warner Bros. Pictures and director/star Clint Eastwood. The true story film also stars Bradley Cooper, Laurence Fishburne, Michael Peña, Dianne Wiest, Andy Garcia and Ignacio Serricchio.

Broke, alone and facing foreclosure on his business, 90-year-old horticulturist Earl Stone takes a job as a drug courier for a Mexican cartel. His immediate success leads to easy money and a larger shipment that soon draws the attention of hard-charging DEA agent Colin Bates. 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.

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Review

Clint Eastwood is iconic and his directorial efforts have all been award worthy pieces of genius – until recently… That train movie he did not long ago using the real life people that inspired the true story — was by all accounts a failed experiment. Now we have The Mule – also a true story about a 90-year-old man who becomes a drug mule for the Mexican cartel. Eastwood stars and directs the film as a man who has always cared more about his job than his family and after falling on hard times, kinda just stumbles into this role as a man who drives drugs across the state for the most dangerous criminal organisation on the planet.

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Eastwood is known for his gruff and manly performances, even as he continues to age and his skin starts wrapping ever closer to his near skeletal frame at this point; However, his performance in The Mule is vastly different than what fans are used to. Eastwood’s portrayal of Earl Stone is a complete 180 from past works like Gran Torino or Unforgiven — Earl is a swindler, he likes to hear himself talk and he’s a charmer to the end. Eastwood plays him perfectly and although it can be jarring to see a Clint Eastwood movie character who prefers gardening over shooting criminals in the face – he makes it work and brings something new to his resume – something we haven’t seen in a long time from the acting legend.

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Where The Mule stumbles is in its pacing… There is never really that one explosive moment that kicks the film into gear and the slow-burn never feels like a suspenseful one either until the final 20 minutes of the movie. As Earl becomes more accepting and understanding of what he’s doing (he begins driving drugs around not even really knowing what he’s delivering) and it leads to an interesting aspect of his character where he uses his smile and elderly appearance to his advantage in avoiding the police. It’s a dynamic that works and it was a lot of fun seeing Eastwood riffing off these tattooed gangsters but I just wish there was more grit in there.

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The film spends too much time with secondary characters I didn’t care about. Bradley Cooper’s Federal agent is a bore until he actually has screentime with Eastwood and then we have Dianne Wiest as Earl’s ex-wife – I couldn’t stand her. Her overly whiny delivery was even worse than what we have been used to and I usually tolerate her, but she was BAD in The Mule and there’s an emotional arc near the end of the film where she takes up WAY too much screentime when the movie should be ramping up to it’s conclusion instead.

Overall, The Mule is a fine thriller with an insane concept inspired by a real person. Eastwood shines every time he’s onscreen and I just wished that the other elements aligned to make this something special. But in the end – it’s just OK.

Rating:

Special Features

  • Nobody Runs Forever: The Making of The Mule
  • Toby Keith “Don’t Let the Old Man In” Music Video

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If you like country music – that video is actually alright. In fact – that song is absolutely perfect as the movie’s theme and the use of it during the ending/credits really brings the film home in a dramatic way. The 10 minute BTS feature is OK, but it didn’t mention the true story at all – it was more of a ‘making-of’ segment that shows how good of a filmmaker Eastwood is. If you were expecting anything more, you’d be disappointed.

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