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THE MULE
4K Ultra HD Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Clint Eastwood, Bradley Cooper, Laurence Fishburne, Michael Pena, Dianne Weist, Andy Garcia
Director: Clint Eastwood
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 116 Minutes
Release Date: April 2, 2019

You’ve lived so long. I think you’ve probably lost your filter.”

I never realized I ever had one.”

Film ***

For his 37th directorial effort, Clint Eastwood has managed to make a film that feels as though it may be somewhat self-reflective of the iconic actor in the same way that Gran Torino was. The Mule, adapted from a New York Times article titled “The Sinaloa Cartel’s 90-Year-Old Drug Mule”, is a perfect fit for the 88 year old actor/director. It’s been rumored to be Eastwood’s final bout in front of the camera, but then again that was also said to be the case with Gran Torino.

Eastwood plays Earl Stone, a horticulturist and Korean war veteran. Though something of a celebrity when he attends flower conventions at hotels, Earl has fallen on rather hard times financially. The internet has dominated the flower market, resulting in Earl’s flower business to close down.

Added to this, he hasn’t been the best family man. Always putting business before family matters has led to him missing out on important events, most recently the wedding of his daughter (played by real life daughter Alison Eastwood). Just as he’s been asked to leave a post wedding party, Earl is approached by a friend of the family who proposes a job opportunity.

The job simply requires Earl to drive from Chicago to El Paso, with no questions asked about what it is he is transporting. He is paid very handsomely after each run, this putting his life in a positive turnaround. But eventually, he becomes curious about the product he’s delivering, which turns out to be large amounts of cocaine for a Mexican cartel.

With a perfect driving record and a demeanor that is the direct opposite of a suspicious character, the head of the cartel, Laton (Andy Garcia) couldn’t be happier with Earl’s job performance. And Earl himself is fine with where he is at, both for the money and the excuse to be on the road. But unbeknownst to Earl, DEA agents Bates (Bradley Cooper) and Trevino (Michael Pena) are closing in on the cartel.

The film is a pitch perfect Eastwood production through and through, competently made under the legendary filmmaker’s one of a kind economic approach. It was apparently a very quickly made picture too, as it was shot last June and rolled into theaters in by mid-December. And nowhere in the film does it give off signs of being a rushed job. Incredible!

I would rank the film a bit higher if it weren’t for the fact that a story like this had been done much more effectively through a TV series form in Breaking Bad. The only real difference her is that Earl doesn’t quite go the same criminal extremes as Walter White, and is a far more likable guy. Also, maybe it’s just me but I’m not sure anyone is exactly clamoring to see a man of Eastwood’s age getting it on with two women at the same time, which is only implied in the movie but it happens TWICE.

Coming off the well intentioned but horrible misstep of The 15:17 to Paris, which is far and away the worst of Eastwood’s directorial efforts, The Mule is worthy return to form for the veteran icon. It’s unclear whether this will be his last time in front of the camera, and directing-wise it may not be the perfect swan song. But it is a most terrific, well paced and often tension-filled character piece.

Video ****

This is the first Clint Eastwood film I’ve viewed in 4K Ultra HD and though it’s a low key presentation, it’s dynamically and flawlessly presented in the format thanks to Warner Bros. The striking widescreen photography is a key factor here and is displayed in a superb form, with rich colors and fine textured detail to spare. The many locations where Earl and his truck travel are wonderfully captured. Dark and bright sequences both fare extremely well!

Audio ***

The DTS mix supplies this presentation with a top flight sound quality, even though it’s mainly dialogue oriented with occasional bits of music score (which though it sounds like a score composed by Clint, it actually wasn’t). But the dialogue is delivered excellently and balances out well with the surrounding elements.

Features *

The only extras on this release, which can be found on the standard Blu-ray disc, include a featurette titled “Nobody Runs Forever: The Making of The Mule” and a music video for the song “Don’t Let the Old Man In” by Toby Keith.

Summary:

The Mule is yet another high quality entry in the directorial career of Clint Eastwood, with a role that fits him like a perfect fitting glove. It’s nowhere near his many masterworks as a filmmaker, but it nevertheless a very well made piece by Eastwood, as well as marvelous acted by him and the supporting cast!

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