The Mule, rated R
The Mule was inspired by the story of Leo Sharp, a World War II Bronze Star veteran and horticulturist, who in his late 80’s became the world’s oldest and most prolific drug mule for the Sinaloa Cartel headed by El Chapo. It is a well-acted and directed film that has some content concerns. The film is directed by the legendary four-time Oscar winner, 88-year-old Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby, Unforgiven). The film is written by Nick Schenk (Gran Torino) and Sam Dolnick, based on his New York Times Magazine article. Though the film is set in Illinois and Texas, it was actually shot in Georgia.
Clint Eastwood portrays Earl Stone. It is Eastwood’s first credited acting role since 2012’s Trouble with the Curve (he had a non-credited appearance in 2014’s American Sniper). This film is the first time he has both starred in and directed the same film since 2008’s Gran Torino.The film begins in 2005. Stone is a respected horticulturist living in Peoria, Illinois, who runs a nursery specializing in day lilies. We see him going to a flower show and winning an award on the same day that his daughter Iris, a single mother played by real-life daughter Allison Eastwood, is getting married. Two-time Oscar winner Dianne Wiest (Bullets Over Broadway, Hannah and Her Sisters) plays Mary, Stone’s ex-wife of ten years. When Earl doesn’t show at the wedding, Mary tells Iris that Earl has always put work ahead of family.
The film then fast-forwards to 2017. Stone doesn’t like the internet or cell phones, is crusty and certainly not politically correct. He is losing his house and nursery to foreclosure, as his flower business can’t compete with online suppliers. He then shows up the at the pre-wedding brunch of Iris’s daughter, Ginny, played by Taissa Farmiga (American Horror Story). Iris hasn’t talked to her father since he missed her wedding in 2005, but he has stayed in touch with Ginny and promised to help pay for her wedding, which he now can’t because he is homeless. Mary and Iris are not happy to see Earl, and the three get into a profanity laced argument. As Earl leaves, Rico, played by Victor Rasuk, follows Earl to his truck and passes along a business card with an offer for him to make money by driving. Earl has travelled to about forty states, never having got a ticket. What he doesn’t realize is that the driving job is as a courier (mule) for a Mexican cartel.
As Stone begins his driving for the cartel, who know him as Tata (grandpa), he enjoys the fact that he is relevant again and has money. He does well and is given more and more responsibility. We see him make one drug run after another from Texas to Chicago. Four-time Oscar nominee Bradley Cooper (American Sniper, American Hustle, Silver Linings Playbook) plays Chicago DEA Agent Colin Bates, a star detective who has been brought in from Chicago to take down the cartel; Michael Pena (American Hustle, Crash) plays Agent Trevino; and Oscar nominee Laurence Fishburne (What’s Love Got To Do With It?) plays their boss, the head of the DEA.
The ninety-year-old Stone varies his runs to make them more scenic, singing along with the radio and making frequent stops, which doesn’t sit well with his Mexican cartel handler Julio, played by Ignaco Serricchio (Lost in Space). But Stone has the confidence and protection of the cartel boss Laton, played by Oscar nominee Andy Garcia (The Godfather: Part III). The DEA has an informant, Luis, played by Eugene Cordero, so it looks like just a matter of time before they track down Earl and his black pickup truck.
Stone knows that he has not been a good husband or father and he has regrets. He says that he was a failure in his own home. He tries to use the money he is making to mend fences and do some good.
Content concerns include a significant amount of adult language and some violence. In addition, there is some nudity and several close ups of bikini bottoms, all of which takes place in a scene at Laton’s mansion in Mexico. Themes include the importance of family, regret, doing the right thing and forgiveness.
The film has an outstanding cast, but it’s Eastwood that makes this film, as he gives an outstanding performance. The music in the film was a highlight, courtesy of Emmy nominee Arturo Sandoval (For Love or Country: The Arturo Sandoval Story). The movie was slow at times, making it feel overly long, even though it clocked in at under two hours.
The Mule is inspired by the real-life story of Leo Sharp. It features a strong cast led by Eastwood, who also does a good job directing the film. However, the film has some content concerns to be aware of.