The Mule

Based on the strange-but-true tale of Leo Sharp, an octogenarian who for some 10+ years was the most prolific US drug runner for the El Chapo Mexican cartel, Clint Eastwood is Earl Stone, a Korean War veteran who decides to undertake some questionable courier jobs for a batch of shady, heavily-armed beaners (his term) when his award-winning and once-thriving day-lily cultivation business tanks after he resists taking it online. While Sharp’s attorney cited a dementia diagnosis as a defense for Sharp, that’s never implied here, so it’s a bit unbelievable when Stone gets curious and unzips one of the bags several runs in and seems shocked to learn he’s been transporting kilos of cocaine. It doesn’t stop him, though, as Stone rationalizes his activity by showing a newfound generosity toward his long-neglected family (a story arc invented for the movie) while also simultaneously enjoying his sudden “flush” popularity, both with the crowd down at the VFW hall he saves from eviction to the cartel gang that brings the infamous “Tata” down south of the border for a celebratory visit. Eastwood, who also produced and directed, is at his late-career crusty geezer best as a man who never seems to fully grasp the depth of the dark pit he keeps digging himself deeper into. That is, until crawling back out is no longer an option.