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Mule, The


Stars: Clint Eastwood, Bradley Cooper, Lawrence Fishburne, Michael Pena, Dianne Wiest, Ignacio Serricchio, Andy Garcia, Alison Eastwood, Ray Hernandez, Lobo Sebastian, Manny Montana, Noel Gugliemi

Director: Clint Eastwood

If you assume that 88-year-old Eastwood might be just a tad too old to play a 90-year-old American horticulturist who - finding himself broke, alone and facing foreclosure - turns to crime and becomes a highly successful drug courier for a major Mexican narcotics cartel, then he's likely to prove you are an ass with this gritty, fact-based thriller strongly scripted from the New York Times Magazine article The Sinaloa Cartel's 90-year-old drug mule, by Nick Schenk who also wrote the screenplay for Clint's last starring role movie, 2008's .

And Eastwood, memorable as a man who, racked by his conscience over having abandoned his family, scores behind the camera as well, both as producer and, impressively as ever, as director - in which capacity he scores strongly by concentrating on character and narrative rather than showing off in the manner most adored by aspirant auteurs.

For Eastwood, the story and its telling come first, balancing the increasingly tense crime story narrative with telling emotional drama when, racked by his conscience over the family he abandoned, he struggles to reconcile with the family he abandoned with persuasive veracity and telling performances from Wiest as his former wife and - going some distance in proving that talent can be hereditary, by his on-screen daughter Iris, portrayed by his real-life daughter Alison.

Eastwood’s illumination of the story's essential criminal element contains equally compellingly strong contributions from Fishburne as the US lawman on his trail and Cooper making the most of his role as the Federal Drug Administration cop out to lasso mule Eastwood, who skilfully blends character, narrative and visuals into an absorbing thriller whose impact is vividly potentiated by a strong narrative pace and vivid location work and characterisations that entertainingly prove Eastwood's continually maturing talent to entertain from both sides of the camera is as gripping as ever.

No masterpiece, perhaps, but nevertheless eminently welcome entertainment.

Whereas in his recent (and probable?) screen swansong The Old Man & the Gun, Robert Redford came across as emphasising 'Look at me, LOOK AT ME!' in his every scene, here Eastwood concentrates on creating a memorable character and telling his story as it deserves to be told and telling it well, with no Redford-style 'It's me!' element in his compelling, narrative-driven performance.

Alan Frank

USA 2018. UK Distributor: Warner Brothers. Colour.
116 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 2, Swearing 2.

Review date: 02 Feb 2019