Eastwood's mature drug-mule drama boasts expert filmmaking.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Mule stars Clint Eastwood (who also directs) as a 90-year-old man who becomes a drug mule for a Mexican cartel. Drugs are shown, but the business of drugs and drug dealing -- as well as drug use and addiction -- is mostly avoided. Characters do drink socially and smoke cigars. One character is shot and killed, with a blood stain shown; a character dies of cancer. People are briefly beaten or roughed up, and there are threats, shouts, and arguments. Bloody wounds are seen. The main character kisses and is seduced by two women, twice, in two different scenes. A topless woman is shown. Language is quite strong and includes uses of "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," racial slurs, and more. There are also a few moments of cultural insensitivity and women being objectified. But Eastwood is still at the height of his skill, and the movie is quite entertaining.
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What's the Story?
In THE MULE, Earl Stone (Clint Eastwood) is a 90-year-old horticulturalist who finds his business dwindling with the rise of the internet. At a wedding party for his granddaughter, Ginny (Taissa Farmiga), Earl is approached by one of the guests about a driving job; he's been on the road most of his life and has an impeccable record, so he agrees. Despite the weird conditions of the job -- and the anonymous packages he's transporting -- everything goes smoothly, and the money rolls in. But before long, Earl discovers that he's actually transporting drugs. Feeling he has no choice but to continue, Earl rises through the ranks and is eventually summoned to meet the cartel leader (Andy Garcia). But when Earl's ex-wife (Dianne Wiest) gets sick, he realizes that he's neglected his family for too long and risks everything to be with them. Meanwhile, two dogged DEA agents (Bradley Cooper and Michael Peña) are on his trail, in addition to the angry cartel.
Is It Any Good?
Eastwood directs this drama at the same high level as his best work; his classical sure-footedness overcomes potentially goopy material. And fans can likely forgive him a few politically incorrect missteps. Suggested by a New York Times Magazine story, The Mule brings Eastwood back to acting for the first time since Trouble with the Curve; it also marks the first time he's directed himself since Gran Torino. Now close to 90 himself, Eastwood looks older and frailer than you may remember, but Earl is a perfect role for him. He's a little doddering, more streetwise than smart, but with an endearing twinkle in his eye and a mischievous smile on his lips.
The movie's main theme is that family is more important than work (as well as the evils of technology), and while it's not discussed at length, Eastwood gives the movie a flow that seems natural -- tulips become a lovely symbol -- and not preachy. The movie has a few moments here and there that are embarrassing, such as women being objectified and some culturally insensitive remarks, but they feel like the whims of an eccentric older man rather than anything intentionally malicious. The drug world story is given little weight -- there's no acknowledgement or discussion of the lives that drugs ruin -- but nonetheless, involvement with it comes with a price. In the end, The Mule once again shows that Eastwood is a master filmmaker in the old Hollywood style.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about how The Mule depicts drugs. Are the wide-reaching effects of drugs shown or discussed? Is drug smuggling glamorized? Is there a price to pay?
How is sex portrayed? What values are imparted?
Are there any strong female characters here? Are women objectified? What message does that send?
Did you notice any moments of cultural/gender insensitivity? Were they funny? Harmful? What do you think their intent was?
Do you agree with the movie's theme that family is more important than work? What about its/Earl's opinion on technology? Do you agree that people are on their phones too much?
- In theaters: December 14, 2018
- On DVD or streaming: April 2, 2019
- Cast: Clint Eastwood, Bradley Cooper, Taissa Farmiga
- Director: Clint Eastwood
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 116 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language throughout and brief sexuality/nudity
- Last updated: December 17, 2022
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