The law may be an ass, but The Mule (2019) is a real donkey.

It’s someone disingenuous for something this uninspired to proclaim it’s ‘inspired by a true story’ but that doesn’t seem to discourage notorious empty chair haranguer Clint Eastwood from making a film for reactionary old men who like to yell at clouds. It’s a wannabe “Sicario – The Greatest Generation”, or the demographic antithesis of “Black Panther”: white fossil.

When career driven horticulturalist (yes, really) Earl Stone (Eastwood) falls on hard times, he finds himself homeless and estranged from his family. Offered a chance to make some easy money in return for just driving, he ends up acting as a drug courier for the cartel, moving narcotics across Illinois under the noses of the Feds. Soon he’s raking in the cash and buying his way back into his family’s affections – but can he stay one step ahead of the law?

There’s a frailty to the filmmaking on show here that goes far beyond its ageing star. It’s flat, unfocused and often seems to forget the story it’s trying to tell. Eastwood, looking so cadaverous he might break into a rendition of ‘God Is In His Holy Temple’ at any moment, never quite convinces as the kindly old coot who falls into step with the drug traffickers. In a way, it’s a weird kind of superhero movie as he uses the power of old white privilege to pootle around, above suspicion and reproach to become ‘Money Grandpa’, the kindly codger who can solve any problem with his suspiciously large rolls of banknotes. Like all good superheroes, though, Money Grandpa has his weakness. His Achilles heel is an inability to not criticise the younger generation (anyone under sixty) for their reliance on cell phones.

It’s when the movie goes beyond this superficial sitcom scenario and into absurd geriatric wish fulfilment as Stone uses his drug money to solve problems like a freewheeling fiscal “Cocoon” pod and finds time to indulge in not one, but two separate threesomes that the wheels really come off this stationary station wagon of a movie. A starry and talented supporting cast is wasted and while Eastwood retains some of his star power and screen presence, the script is lifeless and uneventful, leaving the movie flaccid and utterly devoid of tension or drama.

4/10 

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