Clint Eastwood reunites with the writer of 2009’s Gran Torino to direct and star in this crime drama about an elderly war veteran who smuggles cocaine through Michigan for a Mexican drug cartel.
Clint’s direction is solid as ever, critic Adam Fresco reports, but the film deserves a better script.
Clint Eastwood stars and directs in this tale of an aged drug mule, from a based-on-a-true-story screenplay by Gran Torino scribe Nick Schenk. Octogenarian Eastwood plays 90-year-old Korean war vet turned horticulturalist Earl Stone. His flower farm’s foreclosed and he’s struggling to make ends meet when he’s offered a job as a driver, no questions asked. Although, to be fair, if you rolled up to collect a suitcase from stereotypical muscled Mexican gang members covered in neck tattoos, waving sub-machine guns in your face, and telling you not to look in the bag, you might be a tad suspicious.
Not Earl though.
Singing along to old songs on the car radio as he smuggles huge quantities of cartel cocaine, Eastwood’s Earl is a grumpy old git, stooped and shuffling, mumbling such gems as “Damn Internet ruins everything” in an old-school/casually racist/misogynistic/doesn’t understand texting kinda way. Clint’s chiselled charisma carries the plodding plot, whilst a star-studded supporting cast fills out underwritten, cardboard-cut-out characters. Bradley Cooper, Michael Peña and Laurence Fishburne phone in their performances as DEA agents, Dianne Wiest does her best as Earl’s long-suffering ex-wife, as does Clint’s daughter Alison as, um, his daughter, and Andy Garcia’s cartel don is given little to do other than wave a gold-plated shotgun.
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Clint’s direction is solid as ever, with little fuss or show, aside from one great shot (literally) of Garcia’s don. A smattering of f-bombs, almost no on-screen violence, a wry twinkle in Clint’s eyes, and a narrative that barely touches on the issues raised, from the morality of drug-smuggling to espousing outmoded, politically incorrect views, and the regret felt by a man realising too late he’s put work before family. There’s an attempt at Robin Hood morality, as Earl seeks to make up for lost time, using his ill-gotten gains to help others, but it’s not until the very end that he all-too-briefly reflects on his culpability.
Long-time Eastwood fans may enjoy the legend’s craggy face and dry humour, but the subject matter deserves a better script, one that’s not reliant solely on the fading charisma of its star.