MIKE AT THE CINEMA
by MIKE ORLOCK
At 91, Clint Eastwood is quite his age. The gangly frame is still skinny – the one who hit such a screen presence in the Unnamed man trilogy and the Dirty Harry series half a century ago and propelled him to international stardom – but the stride has boiled down to a reshuffle, and the instinctive movements that gave it an air of deadly unpredictability now seem measured and premeditated.
The Clint Squint is still there, burning with intensity as those eyes focus on the camera, but the face is wrinkled and leathery, the voice hoarse and raw. It takes a little bit of effort now to project himself, so when he delivers the kind of line that once came out of his tongue with menacing vigor (“Go ahead. Make my day.”), He feels like ‘he is looking for something that is not is no longer there.
Time has a way of doing this to our Hollywood heroes and legends, and Eastwood is definitely as menacing and provocative an icon as John Wayne is in our cultural mythology.
To say he “rides again” in his latest film, crying macho – that Warner Bros. presented as Eastwood’s first “westerner” since the Oscar unforgiven 30 years ago, that’s a bit of a stretch. We can see him riding a horse (which, let’s face it, is a pretty remarkable feat for a man his age), and he improbably hits and disarms a badass in one scene; but this movie is about as “western” as the previous Eastwood movie, The mule (2018), in which her character drove a motorhome through the southwest to transport drugs for a Mexican cartel.
The story, adapted from a 1975 novel by N. Richard Nash, shows Eastwood as an old rodeo star and horse trainer named Mike Milo, who is living his last days in the service of a Texas rancher. (Dwight Yoakam) who does shady deals on both sides of the border. He twists Mike’s arm to do him a “favor”: to travel to Mexico City to “persuade” his 13-year-old son Rafael to come and live with him in the United States, presumably to learn the family business and inherit the family business. his birthright.
Mike feels the story is a little more complicated than that, and he’s right when he arrives at the lavish estate of Rafael’s mother, who appears to be running her own lucrative criminal enterprise.
She tells Mike, drunk, that her son is a living nightmare – a street punk who loves cockfighting – and if he can find the kid, he can have him, good riddance and all that. When she sobers up, however, she throws her henchmen on Mike, who indeed found “Rafo” and persuaded him to accompany her to the border, essentially agreeing to let the kid take his fighting cock. , Macho, with him.
What follows is, in turn, a “road movie” in which Mike, Rafo and Macho bond; a “chase movie” in which Mike, Rafo and Macho evade ruthless bounty hunters and corrupt Feds; and a reverie about age and redemption in a small Mexican town near the border, where Mike and Rafo find refuge (and some romance) offered by a caring widow and her family – and Macho runs the co-op.
These three different story threads continue to intertwine with each other, and not in convincing or satisfying ways. Too often, a coincidence presents itself to resolve issues that could otherwise derail Mike and Rafo’s flight to the border. Worse, when they finally get there, what happens feels both rushed and superficial.
Eastwood has been trying to make this movie for over 30 years. He wanted to lead the great Robert Mitchum there, but Mitchum’s declining health and his death in 1997 thwarted those plans. Maybe this movie would have been the one Eastwood imagined: the one that could take its place next to some of its greats, like the Oscar winners. unforgiven, the mystical river, Million dollar baby and Letters from Iwo Jima, or almost large such as Gran Torino.
But at this point, the mere fact that Eastwood, at 91, can muster the energy to direct and star in a movie may be reason enough to welcome him. He has earned the right to fail on his own terms.
crying macho is rated PG-13 and is currently airing in theaters and streaming on HBO Max through October 17.
In another life, Mike Orlock wrote movie reviews for The Reporter / Progress Chicago western suburbs newspapers. He also taught high school English, coached basketball and wrote three books of poetry. He is currently the Door County Poet Laureate.