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Clint Eastwood looks for forgiveness in uneven ‘Cry Macho’

Clint Eastwood looks for forgiveness in uneven ‘Cry Macho’

Clint Eastwood looks for forgiveness in uneven ‘Cry Macho’
September 24
12:00 2021

“[Being macho], it’s like anything else in life. You think you got all the answers. Then you realize, as you get old, that you don’t have any of them. By the time you figure it out, it’s too late.” 

After being laid off, an old friend comes to washed-up rodeo star Mike Milo (Clint Eastwood) in 1980 for a favor — he wants Mike to smuggle his son, Rafo (Eduardo Minett), who has gotten to trouble under a neglectful mother, out of Mexico. After a while, Mike convinces Rafo to come with him, embarking on a journey where they debate each other’s ideas of masculinity, evade the corrupt authorities and wield the world’s deadliest rooster, Macho. 

Clint Eastwood has had one of the greatest careers in cinematic history, and some parts of that career take a hard look at his own popular personas. “Unforgiven” deconstructed his famous Man With No Name, “The Gauntlet” took pliers to his Dirty Harry character and even “Gran Torino” pulled apart essentially his entire tough-guy persona. “Cry Macho” is his latest addition to this lineage, this time looking back at his Western characters through a decidedly more morose, mellowed lens.  Shame it isn’t the swan song he deserves.

That’s not apparent from the cast. As with any Eastwood flick, everyone does a bang-up job, especially the man himself. While his performance is surprisingly awkward in the early sections of the story, Eastwood’s more natural charm comes into play when he’s able to just bond with Rafo and the people they meet along the way. There’s also just something awe-inspiring about his presence here, just how wearily yet surely he strides.

Opposite him, Minett is something of a mixed bag, but he has more positives than negatives. This is his first film gig, so it’s understandable. While he gets into really soapy speeches and mannerisms in his speech, Minett also has genuine chemistry and matches the veteran Eastwood. Their friendship is easily the movie’s apex. 

Eastwood’s eye for visuals certainly hasn’t left in his now-50 years as a director. While “Cry Macho” has New Mexico standing in for the real deal, cinematographer Ben Davies gets some really good compositions of the landscape and towns. Interestingly, Eastwood does away with the “yellow Mexico” filter. As a result, the rugged landscapes and dusty towns look quite earthly and rich with even the director’s usual desaturation toned down. 

There’s also just something elegiac here. While this does contain some serious flaws, it’s hard not to become wrapped up in Mike and Rafo’s journey. There’s this sense of finality, closure. It’s as if Eastwood himself is acknowledging he’s well through it and the movie mostly reflects it — but he’s made his peace with that. 

Still, some flaws are present. For one, the characters outside of Rafo and Mike are paper-thin. There’s someone Mike ends up having a relationship with and it feels a little rushed. There’s also some really odd acting here and there, partly from Minett and even Eastwood himself at times. The script is also incredibly blunt and really goes hard on the exposition dumps. 

“Cry Macho” is surprisingly short on any real emotional nuance. There’s also some really odd contrivances here and there, plus a central antagonist who’s underdeveloped, plus another. In fact, what the movie ends up doing with Mike’s friend is head-scratching because it feels like it just gave up on him.

The ending is also going to polarize audiences and for good reason. It just… ends? It has a build-up, even thematic resonance and a laughable climax, but it just peters out. It feels like there was more to go, only for the screenwriter to go, “Ah, crap, I’m out of gas.” It really is jarring, like the editors pulled out five or ten minutes of story.

“Cry Macho” is also the victim of being a successor to far better Eastwood movies. As noted before, it’s not like Eastwood hasn’t done this kind of thing better and he’s already had a couple of supposed swan swings before this. 

When Clint inevitably leaves the world, he’ll have left behind such memorable characters: The Stranger, Frankie Dunn and Josie Wales among others. He’s also responsible for some all-time classics, such as “High Plains Drifter,” “Letters from Iwo Jima,” “Mystic River,” the list goes on. 

Until then, however, he shows no signs of slowing down even at the ripe age of 91. Thank God. Hopefully, he’ll go out with a bigger bang than “Cry Macho.”

Will’s final rating: 2.5/5

Image source Warner Bros.

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Will Tarpley

Will Tarpley

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