BEIRUT: 2019 is kicking off with a very rocky start, with bland films and nothing powerful enough to grab much attention, even with a name like the legendary Clint Eastwood, but this is typical of box office releases during the first few weeks of the year.
His latest drama, THE MULE, releasing on January 10, follows 90-year-old Earl, a gardener and Korean War veteran, as he is caught transporting $3 million worth of cocaine through Illinois for a Mexican drug cartel, simply feels as tired and worn out as Eastwood.
This is rather sad to see, since Eastwood is a Hollywood icon.
In recent years, Eastwood has stepped in front of the camera only a few times, and for good reason – as difficult as it is to say, the spark is slightly dulling out.
The film is monotonous and cheerless with a runtime of almost two hours, and falls short of executing a proper redemption arc.
Cinematographically, the film is beyond basic and offers nothing new visually but rather captures things as they are sans flare or life, and though that might have been the intent of the filmmaker, coupling a narratively monochromatic film with a flat visual component is a downright sin.
Nothing engages, least of all the predictable narrative which should be more suitably categorized as a futility arc.
Most of the characters are two-dimensional and unlikeable as they are all whining and complaining the majority of the time, spewing out on the nose dialogue like vomit.
The only character worth mentioning is Agent Colin Bates, played by Bradley Cooper, who is likeable but also has quite an unexciting arc.
The biggest problem, however is the film’s protagonist, Earl.
Here is a man who, as the narrative dictates, has failed at being a proper father and husband, and spent his life being sociable and positive outside his own home.
He gave most of his focus to his gardens, his daylilies, and work rather than his family, which is according to the film the most important thing in the world.
Though this element is rather on point, the film does not do a well enough job to drive it home.
The reason behind Earl taking on the risky job occupation as a drug mule, is due to him trying to make amends to his family and believing money is the way to do so.
As the film progresses the audience witnesses Earl slowly make his way towards the final stretch at redeeming himself in the eyes of his family – slowly cheering him on to do so, only to have it all ripped away from him when it finally happens.
Not promoting fairy-tale happy endings, but when one is writing a redemption arc, the end should be one of positive outcome.
Think of Darth Vader in Star Wars, arguably one of the best redemption arcs in cinema history, or even the more recent LOGAN.
True, both of those characters die at the end of their films, but do so post being fully redeemed and it is a satisfying and deserving end.
In Eastwood’s THE MULE, however, the end is not fully earned and neither is it satisfactory.
It simply feels unfair.
Yes, Earl broke the law, but he did so and knows that he did so and is clearly sorry that he did, yet the film ends with punishing Earl yet again.
This, places the film in a place of futility – a message that states that promote almost giving up because no matter what you do, no matter your intentions, life will punish you.
In times like these, where hope seems so difficult to grasp, films of this nature enable a doom and gloom atmosphere.
Cinema used to be a place one could escape the difficulties of life and not be reminded of them, yet today, when the entire world needs light, all cinema seems to want to do is promote the dark.
THE MULE, is written by Nick Schenk and directed by Clint Eastwood, who also stars in the film alongside Bradley Cooper, Lawrence Fishbourne, Michael Peña, Taissa Farmiga, and Dianne Wiest.
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