Clint Eastwood after having a critical misfire this year with The 3:17 to Paris, gets the media above average director benefit of the doubt with The Mule, a mediocre effort that is getting raves for being his best film in twenty-five years.
Never mind that this based on a true story about a ninety year old drug mule panders a racist Hispanic stereotype designed to appeal to the MAGA crowd. All the Latins are involved with the drug trade and are either heavily tattooed, and speak with homy gangsta accents or are hacienda style semi-cultured kingpins who love skeet shooting. As The Mule gets more vicious the Spanish gang stereotyping becomes more blatant.
Then The Mule is a barely disguised story of white degradation, privilege and redemption. The fact that this an unaware by-product of telling a story about a careerist seeking family reconnection doesn’t excuse the Hispanic vilification.
Even the outer plot which involves DEA agents following the drug trail commoditization involves racist profiling and thinking. Everything is reduced to getting the numbers up- the kilos, the busts, the convictions. There is no time or sympathy for the drug victims, no views of the struggling Latin poor or working middle class, just a moderate amount of compassion for the unfortunate old white man caught up in the situation probably not of his own choosing.
The Mule’s vision is too narrowly focused to allow for a sense of tragedy, just an all encompassing pathos. Without a sense of grander failure, The Mule can only be mediocre Eastwood.
All photos and videos courtesy of Warner Bros Pictures