Review: The Mule
(M) Clint Eastwood, Bradley Cooper, Dianne West, Taissa Farmiga
The Mule is a story based on the true-to-life experience of an American war veteran who was in his 80s and became a drug mule for one of the largest Mexican drug cartels. Clint Eastwood takes on the role of the 90-year-old horticulturist who is coming to the end of his life, with his finances and family in ruins. Earl Stone had established himself as one of the leading producers of daylilies and travelled the country to promote his farm. To maintain his status in this unique florist niche, he spent more and more time on the road and eventually became estranged from his wife and daughter. As the years wore on and industry changes, Earl found that his popularity could not keep up with the internet and found himself without his farm or family.
With nowhere to turn and desperate for an answer to his current situation, the Korean War veteran decides to take up an offer to transport drugs across the country. Earl provides the drug cartel with the perfect cover because of his age, race and impeccable driving record. As he proves his value to the syndicate, this senior citizen becomes one of their most productive mules and manages to raise the attention of the United States Drug Enforcement Agency. Known inside the cartel as Tata (grandfather), Earl became a target for Colin Bates (Bradley Cooper) and his agents.
The charisma of the veteran actor/director is what carries this film across the line and keeps people from thinking too hard about the moral conundrum of the plot. This character may cause the most devoted Clint Eastwood fans to question his choice of scripts, because there is little to enjoy about Earl Stone (actual name: Leo Sharp). An absentee husband and father who sacrificed his family for the sake of his career who then attempts to win them back with his drug money. Then for the story to make this out to be the only option for his financial and relational woes is awkward, even with Eastwood’s trademark grin and swagger.
The Academy-Award winning director manages to pull together a stellar cast with Cooper, Laurence Fishburne, Michael Peña, Dianne Wiest, and Andy García, but the film is really about Eastwood. He draws the audience into his charms with brilliantly timed quips and attempts to make his character empathetic by showing up to his ex-wife’s deathbed. It is at this crucial juncture in the film that things unravel, because it becomes evident that no amount of good he does cannot make up for his past.
Audience members may try to justify this as a display of the plight of senior citizens around the world, but that would be a stretch. This elderly man may be driving down the road singing along with classic ‘40s tunes, but this should not distract from the fact that he is carrying multiple kilograms of cocaine in the back of his truck. His choice to be a drug mule, which he was not forced to do, does manage to epitomize the underlying selfishness and the destructive nature of his lifestyle. Throughout the decades, Earl had destroyed his family, but now he goes one step further and delivers the very thing that will destroy countless lives. The Mule presents itself as a potential story of redemption, but turns into an example of the darkness of the human heart.
Some could argue that the Bible does not say anything about illicit drug usage, which is a true statement. Cocaine, heroin, marijuana, cannabis, or any other illegal drugs are not mentioned throughout the canon of scripture. To be clear, their exclusion does not mean that God does not have something to say about them or that it gives license to use them.
Beyond being bad for your health and extending to be outside the realm of acceptable behaviour in our society, one thing that Christians are called to in the Bible is to respect and obey the laws of the land. Passages in the old and new testaments like Ecclesiastes 8:2-5; Matthew 22:21; 23:2-3; and Romans 13:1-7 support the argument against the use of illegal drugs. Even with all of the various arguments for legalising drugs, keep in mind that simply disagreeing with a law does not justify breaking that law.
This is merely scratching the surface in this discussion, but hopefully it can be part of helping to stop this behaviour that is destroying societies around the world.