Cry Macho (2021)
Cry Macho (2021)

Genre: Drama and Western Running Time: 1 hr. 44 min.

Release Date: September 17th, 2021 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Clint Eastwood Actors: Clint Eastwood, Dwight Yoakam, Natalia Traven, Fernanda Urrejola, Eduardo Minett

 


 

L

ong ago, before a major rodeo accident that led to substance abuse (both pills and alcohol), Mike Milo (Clint Eastwood) was a winner. But by 1979, now working for Howard Polk (Dwight Yoakam) in Texas, Milo is a shadow of his former self, struggling to find meaning behind his day-to-day routines – one of which involves showing up late to the ranch where he tends to horses. “You’re a loss to no one,” scolds Howard, who promptly fires him for his incurable tardiness.

A year later, with an utterly mystifying, absent motive (or sensibility), Polk reappears, begging Mike to embark on a mission into Mexico to retrieve the rancher’s long-lost son, 13-year-old Rafael (Eduardo Minett), who is supposedly being abused by his mother, Lexa (Fernanda Urrejola). Mike doesn’t seem appropriate for the job, appearing to possess no special skills for this Rambo-esque task, nor does his age (Eastwood was 90 during the time of filming) make him particularly formidable. Inexplicably, Howard only trusts Mike with the daunting assignment, providing conveyance and an envelope of cash for what is technically an international kidnapping.

“He’s a monster,” insists Lexa about her son while partying at her sprawling estate, initially sidestepping an opportunity to stop Mike’s progress. And so, with virtually no directions or local guides, Milo locates the runaway boy in a seedy cockfighting arena to kickstart a road trip movie, in which the mismatched duo must flee from the unhinged mother’s callous toady/bodyguard. In actuality, there’s not much fleeing going on, however; nor is there much saving and reforming when it comes to taming the “bad kid,” like one of the many wild horses Milo breaks. Instead, most of the runtime alternates between mild grandfather/son conversations that highlight cultural disparities and clashes of young versus old, and a love story between the former rodeo star and a kindly widow (Natalia Traven) – a subplot thoroughly expanded from the novel (by N. Richard Nash), here allowing Eastwood’s role to be far more prominent than the themes themselves.

Problematically, Milo just doesn’t look or act like the man for the job (he has extremely limited resources and capabilities), while Rafael comparably remains unconvincing throughout, predominantly when his decisions fail to line up with his hard-knock life. “All the bad stuff happens at home,” he relates, going on to speak of his inability to trust anyone, formerly suggesting that his mother had sold him to older men for sexual abuse. Yet he’s quick to join forces with Mike, before flip-flopping after a revelation of betrayal, and then immediately returning once again to total dependency on the elderly cowboy. As their time together generates moments for life lessons and notes on strength and weakness, it also reveals a staggering simplicity, genericness, and phoniness; woefully little about their paths contain any level of convincingness, perhaps epitomized when Mike executes a powerfully solid (and carefully-edited) punch that would have, in reality, fractured every bone in his hand.

As the story is altered specifically around Eastwood’s increasing years, any sense of conflict is similarly palliated; what should have been a hazardous trek across hostile lands is much more of a casual saunter through welcoming towns. The unhurried nonchalance and open-ended storytelling are aggravating, while the lack of adventure is deafening. At one point, Mike takes a siesta, awaking to the titular Macho the rooster crowing and pacing, as if something is sinisterly amiss. Instead, nothing at all has transpired. By the end, the film feels as if a project done by Eastwood solely to immerse himself in the things he’s passionate about – such as quiet desert environs and horseback riding. If these tranquil, uneventful activities (including cooking meals and caring for farm animals) – rarely amounting to anything beyond brief episodes of geniality – entertain audiences, that’s very much an afterthought, and far from vital for the nonagenarian filmmaker.

– Mike Massie

  • 3/10