Clint Eastwood directs and stars in The Mule.

The Mule
Director: Clint Eastwood
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Bradley Cooper, Dianne Wiest, Andy Garcia, Alsion Eastwood, Taissa Farmiga, Lawrence Fishburne
Running time: 117 minutes
Classification: 13 S N
Rating: ***1/2 stars

Review: Orielle Berry

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In the hands of many others, a movie about an elderly man who almost inadvertently becomes a drug mule could become a predictable disaster. Picture the scenario - either it could be one of those over-sentimentalised schlocky stories of a life gone wrong or, given its subject matter, a violent tale of an old coot becoming the vulnerable prey to the vagaries of ruthless drug lords.

Eastwood may be 88 years old,  but in this most enjoyable entertaining film he has succeeded in portraying a man who may appear doddery but seems totally in control of his situation and, to boot, almost enjoys it. 

The film,  from the legendary actor and skilled director, is based on the true story of Leo Sharp, a World War II veteran in his 80s who became a drug dealer and courier for the Sinaloa Cartel.  Here he's Earl Stone - a 90-year old horticulturalist from Peoria, Illinois, who's reached the end of the line in his life, growing lilies and working as a travelling salesman to flog them. Estranged from his family, he is to put it mildly, down and out.

When he's given a card with a contact number to help boost his empty wallet, he agrees to become a driver (at first unwittingly) for a Mexican drug cartel. Not the most ideal way to earn a fast buck but after the first, and then the second, and then the third, and more runs (all charted on screen) he gets so good at it that he completes more than a dozen missions.  He thus notches up enough greenbacks to pay for his grand daughter's education, help other members of his family and friends and buy himself a flashy new black pick-up where he barely conceals the stash in the payload back. 

However, things get a little complicated when the cartel try to take greater control. 

Eastwood shines as the unlikely anti-hero. While the core story is to do with his evasion of the law and a somewhat romanticised depiction of the drug handlers (I've never seen such nice baddies!) with whom he initially has a charmingly doting relationship, it's a film when you look behind it, to which Eastwood has lent quite a bit of profundity.

We see him reluctantly visiting his family (estranged wife Mary is masterfully played by Dianne West; his alienated daughter well portrayed by  Alison Eastwood ) and the price he has paid for never being there. There's a lot of home truths of staying connected and that also means of being in touch with those little things in life that give pleasure - to hold close and dear. 

Eastwood has also implanted some wonderfully endearing humour in the most unpredictable moments which makes one nods one's head in agreement and smile inwardly.

This may not be a big movie in the traditional sense - but it certainly has all the elements to grade it as"well worth seeing" - charming, savvy and yes, a little gem.