Clint Eastwood Plays a Different Sort of Cowboy in The Mule
In his new film, the 88-year-old director plays a lonely man working as a drug courier. But the movie has fascinating parallels to the star’s own life.DAVID SIMS8:00 AM ET
In recent years, Clint Eastwood has largely concerned himself with the business of heroism. His past three directorial efforts, American Sniper, Sully,and The 15:17 to Paris, were quiet, plaintive portraits of real-life icons, ordinary folks elevated to celebrity by acts of derring-do. But when Eastwood himself is both behind and in front of the camera, things change. The Mule is Eastwood’s first starring role in six years and his first in a movie that he directed since 2008’s Gran Torino. The two films have a lot in common: Both center on grunting old cowboys, men well out of step with younger generations who are unafraid to complain about it.
More importantly, these movies are about the limits of such men, who might have some remaining charm but who have long ago been left behind by everyone in their life. Eastwood’s character in Gran Torino was nakedly racist, sexist, and homophobic, spouting abuse and misery at anyone who crossed his path. The ostensible hero of The Mule is a slightly softer figure, but he’s still a man who’s guilty of neglecting his family and who’s sometimes too quick to fire off an insensitive joke. Oh, and he also gets drawn in to a surprising postretirement life of crime when a drug cartel taps him to serve as a courier.
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The Mule is based on the true story of