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The Mule (2018)

Robert Crawford

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Title: The Mule

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Director: Clint Eastwood

Cast: Clint Eastwood, Bradley Cooper, Taissa Farmiga, Michael Peña, Laurence Fishburne, Clifton Collins Jr., Dianne Wiest, Ignacio Serricchio, Alison Eastwood, Manny Montana, Loren Dean, Victor Rasuk, Robert LaSardo, Jill Flint, Paul Alayo, Lee Coc, Noel Gugliemi, Katie Gill, Sparrow Nicole, Scott Dale, Joe Knezevich, Charles Lawlor, Saul Huezo, Daniel Moncada, Austin Freeman

Release: 2018-12-14

Plot: A 90-year-old horticulturalist and WWII veteran is caught transporting $3 million worth of cocaine through Michigan for a Mexican drug cartel.

 

Robert Crawford

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I thought Clint was done with acting after "Trouble with the Curve". However, I guess not as this script was probably too good to pass up. This is based on a true story.
 

Jake Lipson

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i suspect the fact that he was also directing it helped nudge him toward taking the role.

Also, I get that they want this out for awards season consideration, but December is so packed this year, I hope this doesn't get killed. It seems like one that might do better with a limited release in December and a wider expansion in January, rather than the wide on December 14 bow that WB is currently planning.

Plus, it will compete with A Star is Born for WB's awards campaign attention.
 

Jeff Adkins

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Review embargo is reportedly being lifted at 4 p.m. EST today. I'm very curious. A late embargo doesn't always mean a bad film, but often does. Also, not a single nomination out of any of the awards groups so far is puzzling. I thought it looked fantastic from the trailer, but honestly, I'll probably still see it even if reviews are bad.
 

Jake Lipson

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I don't understand what Warner Bros. is even doing with this film in December. Their awards season priority is obviously A Star is Born. Either A Star is Born wins Best Picture, or some other film from some other studio will win. And in terms of a big promotional push, their focus right now is on Aquaman. It feels like releasing it in December was a courtesy to Eastwood because it got done ahead of time (I think they were expecting it next year), but it might have made more sense for the film to come out next year when more attention could be paid to its release.

I might see it, but this weekend, The Favourite is arriving here, as well as Spider-Verse, and I just can't fit more than two films this weekend. This one will be on my list if the reviews are good, but it's just not priority #1 because it's such a crowded field right now.
 

Jake Lipson

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It seems as though Clint Eastwood has an Oscar grab most Decembers...

True, but usually they are WB's big priority for that year's Oscar season (Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, American Sniper, etc.) This one sort of feels like it's being thrown away, given that WB has a stronger awards contender this year that didn't come from Eastwood. It just feels to me like they might have been able to get more attention for this film it were being released next year as they had originally expected rather than rushing it into December just because Eastwood got it done early.
 

Jeff Adkins

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True, but usually they are WB's big priority for that year's Oscar season (Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, American Sniper, etc.) This one sort of feels like it's being thrown away, given that WB has a stronger awards contender this year that didn't come from Eastwood. It just feels to me like they might have been able to get more attention for this film it were being released next year as they had originally expected rather than rushing it into December just because Eastwood got it done early.
It's also the first wide release that I can remember in a long time that the studio did not allow Thursday night showings.
 

Jake Lipson

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There were Thursday night showings here last night for The Mule..

Hmm. That's inconsistent. I'm with Jeff, there were none here either.

I'll get to the film eventually, but with several new releases this weekend, it's the one I just can't fit in, so I'll have to float it to some future weekend.
 

mattCR

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It's OK, it isn't great. In some ways I guess you are supposed to root for Earl, but I just couldn't; his wife/daughter were too one note and his grand daughter was seemingly too forgiving in light of all of it. The story just didn't all hang together. It just came off like a jumbled mess. Great concept though.
 

Patrick Sun

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There are a few laughs here and there, but it really bogs down in family drama (I realize it's the point of it all, but it wasn't as entertaining as I 'd hoped it would be).
 

Jeff Adkins

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There were Thursday night showings here last night for The Mule..
Are you sure those screenings actually ran? There was a theater in Atlanta (AMC Sugarloaf Mills) that had a 7:00 Thursday showing listed up until sometime Thursday during the day. It got pulled from AMC's website. It still appeared on some of the third-party sites (since many of those only update once per day) but the screening never happened.
 

Jeff Adkins

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OK, well there was no box office reported from Thursday night for The Mule, but we do have numbers from Spider-Verse and Mortal Engines.
 

Jake Lipson

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The mixed reception has given me some pause as to whether I want to see this or not.

I think there's just too much great stuff out right now and it doesn't sound like this is as good as I thought it was going to be based on what I've heard about it.

I'll probably pass.
 

Elizabeth S

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I really enjoyed this movie. Yes, a bit heavy-handed in laying out Earl's hard-realized life philosophy amidst his family drama, but it blended well with some moments of suspense in his current "job". Certain clichés thankfully never came to be, and I was totally absorbed the entire time.
 

Adam Lenhardt

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Just got back from a matinee of this. It's minor Eastwood, but solid enough for what it is. Like most of his pictures, it's clearly and efficiently told.

It's also one of the rare "Based on a True Story" movies that's less fantastical than what actually happened. Leo Sharp, the real 87-year-old drug mule, made hundreds of runs over the course of a decade. At his peak, he was single-handedly responsible for more than $25 million of the US drug trade annually. He was friends with the head of Detroit distribution for the Sinaloa Cartel; the two even vacationed together. And he continued making successful runs well after the onset of dementia. At his sentencing, he offered to grow papaya to pay off his restitution and avoid jail time. After a year in prison, he was released early on compassionate grounds and died shortly thereafter.

I thought Clint was done with acting after "Trouble with the Curve". However, I guess not as this script was probably too good to pass up. This is based on a true story.
I think it's also the fact that he's the only actor working today who could a) headline a picture, and b) play this role without significant special effects makeup. Maybe Dick Van Dyke, but I don't think this is a story he necessarily would have told.

It's OK, it isn't great. In some ways I guess you are supposed to root for Earl, but I just couldn't; his wife/daughter were too one note and his grand daughter was seemingly too forgiving in light of all of it.
I was struck by how much of a throwback this movie was in a lot of ways. There are very few female characters, and none of them have any agency. All of the women are either objects of lust or objects of virtue, and the line between the two groups is sharply delineated.

The law enforcement side was also pretty thinly drawn. We see Cooper and Peña nab the bookkeeper for the local operations of the cartel on Cooper's first journey out, he agrees to cooperate with minimal resistance, and his intel checks out. It takes three or four tries to nail Earl, but we really don't see much in the way of false leads or setbacks.

The cast is tremendous, but I think a lot of them only signed on for the chance to work with Clint Eastwood, which -- who can blame them? Bradley Cooper cites Clint Eastwood as one of his two biggest inspirations for his own directing career (along with David O. Russell) so he'll probably answer the call every time Eastwood has a role for him. Earl's granddaughter didn't need an actress of Taissa Farmiga's caliber, and Cooper's boss didn't need an actor of Laurence Fishburne's caliber. But if you've got people on that level willing to accept these small roles, why not take advantage of it? Ignacio Serricchio, so great on the "Lost in Space" reboot, probably makes the biggest impression of the cartel members.
 
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