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Clint Eastwood’s latest directorial effort may not shine as brightly as the trailer presumed it would have, however, the film doesn’t fail entirely. A lack of charisma in several crucial areas of the film lead to a bland experience despite a fantastic performance to lead this slug of a movie.
Clint Eastwood hasn’t been so grand lately in his directing, with The Mule being just another obvious depiction of why he should hang up the towel. There’s just something lacking in his direction; a bit of charm or enthusiasm for the craft is missing. What makes it even worse is the overall cinematography for the feature, which is just downright uninspired and putrid. What Eastwood or cinematographer Yves Bélanger were thinking when they took the project on is absolutely beyond me, especially when Bélanger has a more or less phenomenal record. When you know this film has went the wrong direction is at the Drug Lord’s Party, as Eastwood’s direction of the dancing at said party would make you think this was the audition reel for the next Fast and the Furious film (if you know what I mean). If Eastwood would have stepped aside and worried purely on his performance, this film would have not only been more memorable, but a probable award contender.
I really did enjoy the relaxed plot, as it dove into the drug world with a simplistic nature that’s hardly ever seen. Sure the pacing may have been a little slow for the story at hand, but it did its job, although a few less driving shots and more deliveries would have created a much more solid film. That’s the issue with the story really: the character of Earl (Clint Eastwood) loves to drive, his joy in life is to just drive, and he doesn’t care about the cargo he’s carrying, so the screenplay feels the need to show us Earl driving and singing to his tunes. These scenes after the first couple become tedious, drawing out a bulk of the runtime for these driving shots and that’s a major let down. Especially when considering the film delivers with its humor and heart when Earl is off the road eating, resting, or just helping the locals, so it’s a shame that Earl Stone’s character couldn’t be more on display during this near two hour feature. Piled behind his runs is family drama and FBI investigations that are recklessly jammed into the background only to deliver one or two riveting moments. Now that’s truly a shame for the film.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
It’s difficult not to absolutely adore Clint Eastwood in The Mule, as he’s an elderly man who is trying to continue living his ideal life while mending the harm he has incurred into his family relationship. Eastwood gives a personal favorite performance in the film, providing more heart and sincerity to his character than any of his others in a majority of his filmography. However no matter how grand Eastwood is in the title role, he’s only as good as the supporting cast, and unfortunately for him, they are significantly less impactful. In fact, there are several cases of overacting or even underacting - one worse than the other of course, surely a cause of Eastwood’s notorious minimal take directing style. It’s just Earl on the road for a majority of the film, and the road gets awfully lonely, creating a strange disconnect from the audience. Cooper and Eastwood share two scenes that are brilliantly acted, although once again directed poorly. However the acting within is award worthy content and provoked emotions both good and bad. Beyond Cooper, the script feels as though it wanted to cram all the people in this true story into the film, however their role in Earl’s life could have been entirely obsolete with the amount of screen time they all receive. It’s an incredible waste of some fantastic talent in an unnecessarily cluttered script.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
Sound in general for the film is completely forgettable. It blends into the background with such ease that it’s hardly even worth mentioning. Nothing excites, nothing saddens, and it’s a score with almost no emotional impact on the audience, and that to me is a crime. Arturo Sandoval doesn’t deliver anything with promise with his first wide release contribution to film and just builds on another layer of sadness to the overall image of what The Mule could have been. There is one single shockwave effect throughout the score, when Eastwood is nearly discovered as the mule and is being sought after, but unfortunately it is not enough to change anything about the opinions given. So much more could have been offered for the viewers pleasure, and that is certainly only the beginning as there are plenty of other crucial factors that lead to The Mule being a missed opportunity for Eastwood and the entire crew.
Beyond the makeup use at the end of the film to display the harm Eastwood’s Earl receives, the film doesn’t provide any significant makeup usage. The film is filmed purely practically and while that’s respectable, there’s a missing component to the feature that could have garnished the bland direction. There’s not much to speak of here besides the visuals outside the truck when driving, which seemed realistic enough to where it’s left up to deliberation of whether it is practical or digital effects at play.
A case that moviegoers should be ever so familiar with by now is the use of a great trailer to lure us in, but then the film itself just doesn’t live up to those two minutes of glory. Eastwood is a phenomenal actor in The Mule, although what he is not is a phenomenal director. A sloppy script, a bland sense of direction, and lackluster from the lot- excluding Eastwood and a few scenes with Cooper. It’s a real pity for Eastwood because it’s been hinted at for some time that this will be the final film in his career, which is nothing short of a shame.