90-year-old Leo Sharp was a celebrated horticulturist and WWII veteran who was crestfallen following the decline of his career as the digital age killed his status in the day-lily market. When approached by Mexicans working on his farm about a money-making opportunity, he accepted the offer of transporting cocaine for the Sinaloa Cartel, becoming the world’s oldest drug mule.
Sharp’s story has been brought to the big screen in The Mule, directed by and starring Clint Eastwood as Earl Stone, a hybrid of himself and his real-life subject. Written by Nick Schenck, scribe of Gran Torino, the screenplay adapts itself to the iconic actor’s autobiography rather than sticking strictly to the life of Sharp.
He’s dealing with a dysfunctional relationship with his family, low funds, and eventually the DEA (Bradley Cooper and Michael Peña). It almost feels too personal for Mr Eastwood the way he laments on having lost time with family, and his character’s captious relationship with ex-wife Mary (Dianne Wiest) could be read as a sober analysis of his relationship with Sondra Locke.
There’s deep reflection in the actor’s genuinely moving performance, which is being slept on by awards voters. Not only is it poignant but it’s also hysterical – Eastwood has a lot of fun singing country songs on his drug runs and mocking the individuals who attempt to put him in his place. Oh, and he also enjoys threesomes, as a typical nonagenarian does.
The Mule is a wonderful surprise in several ways. It shows that the Hollywood legend can still, ahem, deliver the goods at a remarkable age. More significantly, though, this isn’t the MAGA vehicle that it could’ve easily been, considering the noxious combination of Eastwood’s latter-day politics coupled with the narrative of an old white man labouring with Mexican drug dealers. The second theme of the film, after family, is racial prejudice and this is a potent piece on perceptions of the other. There are candid points made about privilege as the DEA are quick to single out people of a certain appearance whilst Stone gets away.
This terrifically entertaining drama is only brought down by its director’s favoured method of shooting as few takes as possible. This affects some of the performances (namely Dianne Wiest) in an unfortunate way. Nevertheless, the cast performs like a shoe-in for the SAG ensemble award compared to Eastwood’s last work, The 15:17 to Paris.
The Mule is released nationwide on 25th January 2019.
Watch the trailer for The Mule here: