Plot: Earl (Clint Eastwood) has fallen onto hard times, a far cry from years earlier when he had a thriving business and an optimistic outlook. These days, he is flat broke, estranged from his family, and his business is going to be foreclosed on, putting Earl in a hard place in his twilight years. The path to his point was paved with mistakes and regret, though when Earl tries to soothe his broken past, it often ends up making things worse. Desperate for money, he is contracted to be a courier because of his flawless driving record and unassuming persona. His first assignment is a breeze and he soon begins to make more and more deliveries, becoming a trusted courier and raking in a ton of cash. What he doesn’t know at first is that he is hauling drugs for a cartel, but even when he does learn the truth, Earl continues the deliveries, partially because of pressure from his employers. As he uses his new income to make up for his mistakes, he struggles to connect with his family and realizes that that is all the matters, but has this revelation come too late?
Entertainment Value: This was based on real life events and while some liberties were likely taken for dramatic license, The Mule feels authentic and grounded, like this kind of true story adaptation should. The narrative is simple at first blush, but leans more on character than story threads, though as the movie progresses, it starts to have more strands that collide. The tone is bleak at times or at least downbeat, though Clint Eastwood’s flawed, but likable persona helps balance that. The movie is skilled about developing Eastwood’s Earl, showing the aftermath of years of selfish decisions, but also the tolls of regret and longing for redemption. Even as the tension rises and Earl gets involved with some dangerous elements, the narrative remains believable and focused on Eastwood’s progression. The scenes with his old war buddies are well crafted, but it is the regret of lost family bonds that haunts The Mule, that’s what pushes Earl to go beyond his normal boundaries. I thought The Mule was a masterful movie at times, led by Eastwood’s human, but powerful performance and for fans of biopics or skilled dramas, this is highly recommended.
This marked his return to the screen after about a six year absence, but of course, there was no rust for Clint Eastwood. This was a raw, vulnerable, and remarkable effort from Eastwood that once again shows his impressive range, as this is not his usual tough guy kind of role. Earl is a flawed, but good hearted man and Eastwood brings that to life in memorable fashion, able to convey the deep internal machinations of this grounded, but complex character. I loved how he was able to make it clear that Earl knew he was in over his head, but too driven to right the past to turn back, it drives the movie and he just nails that element. In a career of one superb performance after another, this is one more example of how skilled Eastwood is. He also directed The Mule, so he brings it on both sides of the camera here. The cast also includes Andy Garcia, Taissa Farmiga, Dianne Wiest, and Bradley Cooper.
The Disc: The Mule has been given the 4k treatment from Warner Brothers and the result is superb, a razor sharp, pristine, and gorgeous visual presentation. The image here shows such remarkable depth and clarity, even in rather routine scenes you can see so much fine detail and even the most subtle of textures. The colors are natural and well replicated, while contrast is stark and consistent. Not much else you could ask for here, as The Mule looks excellent. On the extras front, we have a behind the scenes featurette and a Toby Keith music video.