Arts & Leisure

“The Mule” is stubbornly imitative, dull

CLINT EASTWOOD stars as an elderly drug smuggler in “The Mule.”

By Jim Tortolano

Watching “The Mule,” one gets a sense of deja vu, but seen through a dusty cracked lens.

This latest – and one would hope – and last film with Clint Eastwood starring as a crusty old redneck fellow who carries his prejudices around like a tool belt hits me like a thin and unwelcome reprise of the much superior “Gran Torino.”

The similarities and comparisons are striking. In each case, the lead character (Eastwood as Earl Stone) is an isolated old fella driving a beat-up old truck and spewing racial epithets.

In “Torino,” it all played as a kind of self-mocking black comedy. But you can only go to the well so many times. In “Torino,” Eastwood’s character leavened his crustiness with some kindness as he got to know people on a more personal basis.

In “The Mule,” it’s all about the money, as he serves as the unlikely smuggler of millions of dollars of cocaine, helping to support murderous gangs and ruin the lives of countless addicts and their families and victims.

Sure, he loosens up the swag bag by donating money to the local VFW post and other good works, but he accepts little or no responsibility for the collateral damage to his community and his family, from which he is epically estranged.

The other collateral damage is to his reputation in film as a director and a actor. This smells too much like a lame do-over of a minor modern classic.

The original story this tale was based on had to be more interesting than this ponderous litany of driving, swearing, gang stereotypes and faux redemption.

Bradley Cooper and Diane Wiest and Laurence Fishburne do their best in their thinly-drawn roles, but this one is all about Clint, all the the time, and it’s one time too many.

“The Mule” is rated is rated R for profanity, racial insults, drug use and some nudity and sensuality.

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