Thursday, January 03, 2019

The Mule (2018)

Earl Stone is not a nice person.  He’s the kind of father that would skip out on his daughter’s wedding to talk with strangers.  It’s not that he couldn’t make it.  It’s that he didn’t even bother.  He seems to like his flower business and the attention that it brings more than family.

Years later, both his marriage and his business have dried up.  His house is in foreclosure and other businesses moved to the Internet.  Again, it’s not that Earl couldn’t keep up.  He just didn’t seem to think the Web was going to pan out.  Enter someone who knows someone who needs drivers with clean records.  Being that Earl is an old, white male, he’s perfect for the job.

As you might infer from the title of the movie, Earl is given a package to hide in the back of his old pickup truck.  The friendly guys at the garage want to make a compartment, but Earl won’t hear of it.  He has them just throw it in with the rest of the stuff back there, assuming no one will think twice about it.  (He’s right.)  Earl is told to park his car at an arranged address and leave it there for an hour with the keys in the glove box.  He returns an hour later to find $10,000 in cash, which he uses to get his house out of foreclosure.

If you’re familiar with drug use in movies, you may have heard the claim, “I can quit any time I want.”  Earl can quit any time he wants.  Except that he doesn‘t.  He could certainly use a new truck.  Then, his VFW post needs renovations after a fire.  So, Earl moves more product, which earns him more cash, which gets attention from the cartel’s management.

Earl seems like he knows what’s going on.  To an extent, he’d have to.  Except that he doesn’t.  When picking up a delivery, one of the guys at the garage gives him an address that happens to be where the drugs are going after he parks the car.  Earl decides to go there directly on a whim.  He is either really bold or really stupid.

He seems to be the only one that doesn’t seem to care how things will end for him.  He’s getting the money he needs.  He’s also getting the attention he wants.  He’s even invited to a party with beautiful women who seem very friendly.  (This is the one scene where your kids might actually cover their own eyes.)

I’m not sure what to make of the movie.  On one level, it’s very cliché.  You have someone that’s prone to making bad choices.  He’s more than eager to sign up for more, though.  It’s not until the end of the movie that he really reforms, but it’s too late by then.

There’s also the drug cartel that does things exactly like you’d expect.  They move large amounts of drugs and have lots of money to throw around.  They’re even persued by an agent that wants to make a name for himself.  It’s just a matter of time before everything comes tumbling down.

There’s also a sense that the movie was supposed to be more than that, but I’m not sure exactly what.  Was it supposed to be funny?  There are a few scenes that would play on stereotypes, but it’s hard to read them.  I could see them meant as a joke or as some sort of message.  When Earl’s handlers are stopped by police, Earl is able to get rid of them by claiming that the two other men are his employees.  It shows how Earl can take advantage of white privilege quite easily.

It’s based on a true story, but not all true stories make for good narratives.  It’s hard to say that the movie has potential.  It could have been done better, but I’m not really sure how.  That’s how low-key it is.  The movie went for such a deep level of subtle that the plot went into a coma.  I wonder if anyone other than Eastwood would have gotten the movie made.

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