Clint Eastwood deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Oliver Stone, Paul Thomas Anderson, and Martin Scorsese – the greatest living directors.
While his best movies are second to none, however, Mr. Eastwood has made his share of duds. Unlike the other great filmmakers, Clint Eastwood never writes his own movies. He acts and directs and produces and even composes and sings. But the one talent that the gods did not bestow upon Mr. Eastwood was the ability to write screenplays.
He also is unique among great directors in his notorious lack of perfectionism. Eastwood is the anti-Kubrick: he rarely alters the script and he likes to shoot scenes in one take. Consequently, he consistently makes movies quickly and under budget.
In 2008 alone, 78-year-old Clint Eastwood made three movies. One is a timeless masterpiece (“Gran Torino”); two are half-baked period dramas (“Invictus,” “The Changeling”).
“Cry Macho” has everything you’d expect from a sub-par Clint Eastwood movie. The script brings up important themes but doesn’t quite come together. And there are scenes with embarrassingly bad acting that ideally should have been re-written and re-shot.
“Cry Macho” takes place in 1980. 91-year-old Eastwood plays Mike Milo.
Mike is a retired rodeo star with no family and no particular reason to keep on living. That explains why he takes on the difficult mission of going down to Mexico City to track down a rich rancher’s half-Mexican son and bring him back to Texas.
When Mike finds the long-lost son – Rafael – he is 13 going on 20. Rafael lives alone on the mean streets of Mexico City and earns a meager living in underground cockfighting. His only friend is his cherished rooster named Macho.
Mike easily breaks down Rafael’s bad attitude and convinces him to come to America with him. The problem is: Rafael’s psycho gangster mother has sent hired goons and federales to try to stop them from reaching the border.
Clint Eastwood is still a charming and effective actor. I eagerly rooted for Mike Milo and I basically enjoyed “Cry Macho.”
Eastwood subtly questions why there is such an intense stigma against cockfighting. I basically agree. It is absurd to me that cockfighting is illegal while factory farming is allowed and encouraged.
To me, that’s like saying: “Boxing is now a felony. However, since we agree that Norwegians and Serbians are tasty, we will lock them all up in tiny filthy pens and slaughter them when they get big enough. Except for one lucky Serbian, who the President will pardon on Thanksgiving.” Cockfighting is bad, but there is much much more serious animal abuse happening in our society.
Like most of Eastwood’s finest films, he deconstructs the myth about heroic masculinity and shows how self-destructive it is. However, he doesn’t do nearly as good a job in “Cry Macho” as he did in “Unforgiven” or “Letters From Iwo Jima.”
The fatal flaw of “Cry Macho” is its bizarre treatment of women. Inexplicably, both major female characters mindlessly throw themselves at nonagenarian Mike Milo. It’s simply laughable. If sexy Mexican women really lusted after elderly white guys like that, the border wall would be a lot less popular.
Clint Eastwood is a living legend. But he’s a legend with a decent number of mediocre movies under his belt. I enjoyed “Cry Macho,” but it is hopelessly mediocre. The cool thing about Mr. Eastwood is that his next film – at age 92 – might well be a 4-star classic.