Did you know that Clint Eastwood’s The Mule opened on the same day as Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse on December 14, 2018. So it’s fitting that The Mule is gaining a new audience on Netflix at the same time that Into the Spider-Verse‘s sequel, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, is on its way to becoming the top hit of the summer of 2023.
You can go to a movie theater if you want to see Spider-Man, but we’re here to tell you why you should stay home and watch The Mule on Netflix as it rises up the streamer’s top 10 movie list. And the main reason why you should watch it is none other than Eastwood himself.
At the time of this post, The Mule is the second-most recent performance in Clint Eastwood’s seven-decade career in Hollywood, and he brings a very real sense of wariness to his character, Earl Stone. It’s hard not to see the parallels between Eastwood and Earl, as both men have worked into their twilight years, and it seems like they can’t bring themselves to stop. The key difference between them is that Earl has alienated his family in his pursuit of success as a horticulturalist, only to fall upon hard times and becoming at risk of losing both his business and his relationship with his family.
Earl’s decision to become a drug mule solves some of his financial problems, but it creates far bigger issues when he realizes just how dangerous his new employers are. Eastwood brings a great deal of pathos to the role when Earl finds himself in the crosshairs of the DEA and he is forced to contend with how far he has fallen.
One of the reasons why Eastwood is so revered is that he is also an incredible director, and The Mule demonstrates that his skills as a filmmaker haven’t diminished with time.
The Mule takes its cues from the true story of Leo Sharp, as told by writer Sam Dolnick in a New York Times article titled The Sinaloa Cartel’s 90-Year-Old Drug Mule. The film isn’t an exact retelling of Sharp’s story, but aspects of his personal life clearly influence Earl’s portrayal in the film. Both Sharp and Earl are war veterans, and both men found some small level of fame as horticulturists.
Earl and Sharp are also ultimately defined by their choice to become drug mules without fully weighing the consequences of their decisions. This adds some tragic overtones as well, as neither man can escape the consequences of their choices, even though the audience feels empathy for Earl’s plight.
While Eastwood’s name is at the top of the credits, Bradley Cooper is essentially the second lead of the film through his role as DEA agent Colin Bates. Eastwood previously directed Cooper in American Sniper, and their shared history may be why they play off of each other so well in their brief scenes together in this film.
Eastwood also lined up a very impressive supporting cast including Laurence Fishburne as Warren Lewis, Michael Peña as Trevino, Dianne Wiest as Mary Stone, Ignacio Serricchio as Julio Gutierrez, Andy García as Latón, and Taissa Farmiga as Ginny. Eastwood even cast his own daughter, Alison Eastwood, as Iris, Earl’s adult daughter, who has a noticeably tense relationship with her father. Alison Eastwood is an accomplished actress and filmmaker in her own right, and this isn’t the first time that she has teamed up with her famous father.
The Mule is now streaming on Netflix.
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Blair Marnell has been an entertainment journalist for over 15 years. His bylines have appeared in Wizard Magazine, Geek…
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