The Mule (3 stars)

The Mule

The hardworking Clint Eastwood directs and stars in a so-so drug-running drama

Clint Eastwood delivers his second film inside of a year (following The 15:17 to Paris), impressive given he's almost 89. He's also back on the screen for the first time since 2012's Trouble with the Curve. Channelling the true story of Leo Sharp, branded the world's oldest drug mule, Eastwood plays his fictional counterpart, Earl Stone. A prize-winning horticulturalist, he's overlooked his family: ex-wife Mary (Dianne Wiest) and daughter Iris (Clint's own daughter Alison Eastwood).

When the main story picks up, Earl's business is facing foreclosure and he's virtually estranged from his kin, despite his about-to-be-wed granddaughter Ginny (Taissa Farmiga) sticking up for him. While at a family party, Earl meets a contact who says he can get paid for driving his pick-up truck; he's soon in El Paso liaising with some fierce-looking traffickers. When he makes a run to Chicago, his fee is enough to pay for the open bar at Ginny's wedding.

A man out of sync with society – he dislikes the internet, can't get the hang of texting and refers to an African-American family as 'negro' – Earl is a slightly less grouchy version of the character Eastwood played in 2008's Gran Torino. But he's perfect cover for the cartels: old, white and with nary a speeding ticket to his name. It's enough to keep the DEA – led by Laurence Fishburne, flanked by Bradley Cooper and Michael Peña – guessing.

Scripted by Gran Torino's Nick Schenk, The Mule is both cliched and clumsy – Earl is twice seen enjoying threesomes (yes, really), while his one-dimensional Mexican employers (led by Andy Garcia) all carry gold machine guns and party with bikini-clad girls. There's little room for any dimension or depth, but Eastwood the director – much like his character – keeps his eye on the road ahead. Somehow, he steers The Mule towards a quietly satisfying conclusion.

General release from Fri 25 Jan.

The Mule

  • 3 stars
  • 2018
  • US
  • 15
  • Directed by: Clint Eastwood
  • Cast: Clint Eastwood, Bradley Cooper, Dianne Wiest

Earl (Eastwood) is a prize-winning horticulturist who, when his business faces foreclosure, becomes a drug mule for the cartels. Despite a clumsy script (based on a true story), Eastwood the director keeps the whole thing humming along to a quietly satisfying conclusion.