The Mule: The return of the king [Critique]

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The Mule Clint Eastwood
Warner Bros. France

Eastwood signs a very personal film where it is no longer a question of the legend, but just of the man. Clint is back.

While his new movie Cry Macho is currently at the cinema, France 2 will broadcast this Sunday, for the first time in clear, The mule, of Clint eastwood. A drama that had been very popular with Première when it was released in early 2019. Here is our review.

After Gran Torino (and despite his appearance in the drama A new chance), we were sure to never see Clint on the big screen again. His recent achievements had left us banned and, at Première, we even ended up mourning (artistic) one who was one of the greatest masters of American cinema. Surprise. In January 2018, we learned that he was going to shoot and especially play the true story of Leo Sharp (Earl Jones in the film), an 80-year-old horticulturalist who, cornered by financial problems, had decided to become a mule for the Mexican cartels. Because the cops did not believe that an old man driving a pickup could carry tens of kilos of cocaine, Sharp had managed to multiply back and forth on both sides of the border and earn a lot of money. The oldest mule in history was eventually arrested in 2011 and sent to prison in 2014 only to spend a year behind bars before dying in 2016. It is this story, until the trial, that Eastwood is directing. And from the start, in front of the first images of the film, the effect of reality is striking. Clint is old. Not aging, not damaged. In ruins. He knows it and he plays with it. The time to love and the time to mature are over. You will say and Gran Torino ? But Eastwood donned the rags of the bastard and revenge Clint to play a new variation around redemption from his avenger character. Today, it is no longer a question of reviving the popular icon. By dropping the mask that he had finally never really left until then (except at the turn of a few sequences of Found guilty or from Million Dollar Baby), Eastwood shows a whole different face, unrecognizable, that we want to take for the real.


In The mule, he takes up the theme of redemption, as well as that of father-daughter trauma, these two subjects that have permeated his cinema for at least three decades (The Tightrope, Full powers, Mystic river, Million Dollar Baby). But what this film really draws, like no other, is its confrontation with death, this moment when damage can no longer be repaired and regrets are engraved on graves. Here, one often has the impression that Eastwood is settling old scores with himself, blurring for the last time and in an absolute way the line between his role and his life. Hence the fact that this old man’s Stations of the Cross (“It’s worth what it’s worth, but I’m sorry for everything I’ve done”) also works as a medley of his filmo.


We meet a gang of bikers (Eastwood obsession of the 70s); a plan resumes the opening of The Showdown ; family scenes are reminiscent of Million Dollar Baby ; the relationship between the cop (played by Bradley Cooper) and the grandpa dealer evokes that between the character of Clint and that of Costner in A perfect world… But his Earl Jones is so far removed from Eastwood characters that one has the sensation of seeing a terminal image of the Eastwood man. We have known for a long time (Josey Wales Outlaw) that it is in the films where he stages himself that Clint engages the most. These little masterpieces function as so many self-portraits where nuances and ambiguities unseen until then are revealed. But in this register, The mule is more than an additional testamentary road trip; more than a new portrait of loser showing off his flaws. Because Clint no longer has time to write his legend or play with the myth. The mule shows the tears and wrinkles of a man who no longer has the fear of growing old, but the fear of dying. And the movie almost feels like a letter of apology to his daughters and exes. Eastwood is naked.

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