Though Clint Eastwood has never officially stated when he plans to retire as a director, it seems to be that he once said something about leaving acting behind, but I may have imagined that. In any event, having entered his 90s, Eastwood still insists on starring in his movies, and it’s getting more difficult to justify these appearances, even when he’s playing a character that is sufficiently old. His latest takes place in 1979, so the viewer is spared the trouble of having to make concessions with the kind of post-millennial sensibilities that Eastwood isn’t very keen on representing. His character, Mike Milo, is a cowboy, more specifically a one-time rodeo rider who works in some capacity for a horse breeder named Howard (Dwight Yoakam), who fires Mike in the first scene because he’s a “has-been,” a line that I first took as a joke since Eastwood looks so frail to begin with. Apparently, Milo hurt himself badly some years ago and has since become dependent on pain pills, but it’s not clear if that’s the reason Howard is firing him. It’s a pretty incoherent scene, and becomes even more puzzling when the movie quickly jumps a year into the future and Howard is attempting to rehire Milo for a one-off job: Go down to Mexico and bring back his teenage son, who lives with his floozy of a mother in a perpetual state of delinquency.
Though Nick Schenk’s script is based on a novel by Richard Nash (who’s credited as co-screenwriter), it doesn’t really give us much to work with, and the questions raised by Milo’s mission—Why Milo? Why does Howard suddenly want the boy to live with him?—are simply tossed to the side because the movie isn’t really interested in the job Milo is carrying out. It’s all about the journey. Milo eventually finds the kid, named Rafo (Eduardo Minett), and discovers the mother, Leta (Fernanda Urrejola), living is luxury due to some connections she has with underworld figures. At first, she seems happy to get rid of Rafo, but she changes her mind, again for reasons that make little sense, and after Milo and the boy leave, along with his fighting rooster, which give the film its title, she sicks a bunch of bruisers on the pair to bring them back, but they manage to elude their pursuers by hiding out in a nice old Mexican town where Milo finds work breaking horses and Rafo learns how to be responsible. That’s pretty much as far as the “story” goes. The film, however, seems to be more or less a kind of refutation of Eastwood’s reputational style. Milo is, of course, anything but macho at his age, and while his romance of a middle aged Mexican restaurant owner needs to be taken with a sack of salt, it’s nice to see one of Eastwood’s stock cowboy personalities, with all his rough edges in tact, relax and look at the sunny side of what’s left of his life. But in the end, Cry Macho feels muddled, its clear sentimental intentions clouded by a lazy attitude toward narrative. Though I don’t begrudge Eastwood his desire to keep making movies, this one really does look like it was made by a nonagenerian with cognitive problems.
Opens Jan 14 in Tokyo at Toho Cinemas Nihonbashi (050-6868-5060), Toho Cinemas Hibiya (050-6868-5068), Marunouchi Piccadilly (050-6861-3011), Shinjuku Wald 9 (03-5369-4955), Shinjuku Piccadilly (050-6861-3011), Toho Cinemas Shinjuku (050-6868-5063), Human Trust Cinema Shibuya (03-5468-5551), Toho Cinemas Roppongi Hills (050-6868-5024).
Cry Macho home page in Japanese
photo (c) 2021 Warner Bros. Ent.