MOVIE REVIEW – The drama-free fantasy of an old cowboy comes to life in Clint Eastwood’s Cry Macho. The title rooster is at his best in this terribly tired, feeble film drama.
Welcome to the fantasy world of Clint Eastwood. Cry Macho is a long dream sequence where the “never-ageing” director/actor strikes terror into the hearts of hard-assed henchmen with a single punch; where the charm of a man of few words has every beautiful woman at his feet; and where a young disciple, at first reluctant but later willing, readily accepts every tired life lesson from his young pupil. Eastwood has proven himself as a director many times, but this film, unfortunately, feels like an inferior imitation of Gran Torino.
“Mucho macho? Not really…
The film’s feeble screenplay adapted N. Richard Nash’s 1975 novel, but it fails to capture the best motifs of the original work. Adapted by Nash and Nick Schenk (Gran Torino, The Mule), Cry Macho retains the book’s basic premise and “dramatic” twists but fails to retain any of the intensity or original style that would allow it to make a meaningful statement about masculinity or the backwardness of Latin “macho” culture. Apart from the fact that the two protagonists sometimes engage in terribly forced dialogues on this issue, Eastwood has little to add to the subject in his film.
Sure, there’s violence and some sexuality in the film, but there are no consequences or evidence as to why “macho” and all that comes with that concept is unhealthy. Instead, we get Mike (Eastwood) – a former rodeo star who has lost his family, his skills and his job – being sent down to Mexico to reclaim his boss’s estranged teenage son, Rafo (Eduardo Minett). In the book, where Mike is not 91, it would make more sense to send him on this mission.
Tired… very tired…
Mike’s boss is played by Dwight Yoakam, who leads the film’s exposition in an unenviable role – terribly groan-worthy. Pretty much everyone in the film delivers their lines as if they’d had a brief look at the script beforehand, but Yoakam’s character is particularly alien.
But a lot of the blatant illogicality shows up elsewhere: Mike is told he’s obviously dressed as a gringo when a Mexican extra walks behind him in the same outfit. In another scene, Mike swears at some dumb cops at such length that he could have been locked up for a quarter of that. But the lamest and unnatural scene is when Mike gives Rafo’s mother – who is a bombshell – the coldest, funniest welcome possible when she literally invites the 91-year-old man to bed in a completely ad-hoc way when her men could walk in at any moment. There is literally zero chemistry between the two characters.
The film wants to use the well-known neo-western and father-son surrogate plot situations, but since the protagonist is at least twice the age of the hero in the novel, Rafo could, in fact, be Mike’s great-grandson.
Explain “moar”, please
While the story is straightforward to follow, all the events and emotions crossed in the dialogues are chewed up in the mouth to be safe. Just in case he didn’t get it, Mike loudly announces that Rafo has “grown-up”. Later, when they arrive in a small Mexican village, and the local barmaid and Mike begin to have obvious tender feelings for each other, Rafo informs Mike, and therefore the audience, just in case.
By the way, Eastwood’s old western films were characterised by his riding into dusty little Wild West villages behind God’s back. Still, he usually shot the bad guys with his Colt in those, whereas here he is, the kindly old gringo cowboy who can do everything. In this village, all you need to do is fix a car, or ride a horse, or look at an animal and say, “Yep, it got bit by a dog,” and everyone in town thinks you’re some gringo veterinary genius.
Average on every level
It’s admirable that Eastwood is still directing and starring in another film at his age, and his previous work has been of a very high standard for the most part. Still, Cry Macho is, unfortunately, clearly a very mediocre piece of work. The drama, the real tension is almost completely absent, and the forced dialogue, tiresome philosophising and contrived scenes cannot be saved even by Eastwood’s competent acting skills despite his 91 years of age. Cry Macho is not a bad film, but one expects more from Eastwood than a weak mediocrity.