Clint Eastwood’s latest is not “A Perfect World.”
Clint Eastwood has been able to survive the next few generation of filmmaking with such masterpieces as “Million Dollar Baby,” “Gran Torino,” “American Sniper,” and “Sully.” I still have a lot more to see in my travels as a young film critic, but I can lay down a few things. I love that “drop your gun” trick in “Dirty Harry,” when he is forced to put down his weapon and then shoots at the bad guy, I have been saying: “There are thirsty people in the desert,” on account of Eli Wallach parching Eastwood in “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly,” and I was appalled that some of my relatives haven’t seen “A Perfect World.”
But even the greatest of legends have produced some losers or weaklings themselves. He did a crappy job with “The 15:17 to Paris,” and his next feature “Cry Macho” lacks the filmmaker/actor’s creative spark. At this rate, Warner Bros. is curious about how it will do at the theatrical box office or on HBO Max, and I watched this movie on the streaming service. In this case, it makes more sense that way, because it’s not Eastwood at his best.
Set in Texas, 1979, and based on N. Richard Nash’s book, Eastwood casts himself as a former rodeo rider named Mike Milo, who gave up after a horse attack that broke his back, and lives a life of horse breeding. A year later, he is asked by his former boss (Dwight Yoakam) to bring his son Rafo (Eduardo Minett) out of Mexico. Because the boy’s mother Lena (Fernanda Urrejola) is a wealthy, abusive tramp with bodyguards, he resorts to a life of crime and cockfighting with his champion rooster Macho. Rafo would rather live on the streets than with his own mother.
Despite Lena threatening Mike not to take his son, Rafo begs him to take him to the border, and he reluctantly agrees. As with “A Perfect World,” the boy and the man taking him connect very well. Only instead of robbing houses with Casper Halloween costumes, Mike trains Rafo to ride some horses, and the old man has a romantic vibe with the kind Mexican widow named Marta (Natalia Traven), who’s always happy to see and feed them on their travels. The performance from Eastwood is good, but the story lacks the challenges and originality to make his road trip profound.
“Cry Macho” has to have some lame acting from Minett (sorry to be picking on a kid actor), Yoakam and Urrejola, and some corny dialogue that doesn’t sound like Eastwood material. You have to hear the obligatory lines: “He’s my son” or “You’re not taking my son from me.” This is when I say: “Of course she’s gonna say that.” The kid also has to be the tough kid, who has to find out the truth about his parents, and how he has to talk to Eastwood. This kind of cliche can be portrayed better in other films, but how the kid acts here seems flimsy. And when we see one of the bad guys for the last time, it falls flat.
The only things that make the movie seem like an Eastwood movie is the beautifully photographed cinematography by Ben Davis (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”), who captures the brightness of Texas, and the music composed by Mark Mancina (“Speed”), who makes it sound like an Eastwood western. Aside from those things, “Cry Macho” is more or less a disappointment. Maybe I saw that coming on account of the poster and trailer, but I expected better out of the 91-year-old master.
In Theaters and Streaming on HBO Max