Cry Macho – Film Review
by Fran Winston
Directed by: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Dwight Yoakam, Eduardo Minett, Natalia Traven, Fernanda Urrejola, Horacio Garcia Rojas
In cinemas 12th November
I never thought I’d write these words, but Arnold Schwarzenegger was originally attached to play the role that Clint Eastwood plays here. Given that it’s a neo-Western and the role is a former rodeo star I’m not sure what Arnie would have done with the part. Mind you said rodeo star is sent to Mexico to bring a child back safely to his father in the US, so perhaps he thought it had potential as a Terminator sequel.
Indeed, the saga of getting this movie to screen would make a movie itself. Eastwood was first offered the role back in 1988 but he opted out to reprise his role as Dirty Harry in The Dead Pool. He suggested Robert Mitchum for the role but nothing came of it. In 1991, filming on an adaptation actually began in Mexico with Roy Scheider in the lead role but production was never completed. There were further failed attempts with Burt Lancaster and Pierce Brosnan attached to the lead. Enter Schwarzenegger, who in 2003 was given the option of starring in either a Westworld remake or a Cry Macho adaptation – the mind boggles at the idea of both of these, to be honest. However thankfully (or not depending on your politics) he was elected governor of California, so the projects never happened.
Now, after all that drama the finished product, which has gone full circle since it was originally a screenplay by N. Richard Nash who, unable to sell it, adapted it into a 1975 novel, is finally here.
Set in 1979, Clint plays the aforementioned former rodeo rider, Mike Milo. A year after his retirement his former boss Howard Polk, played by country star Dwight Yokum, asks him to perform the seemingly simple task of transporting his 13-year-old son Rafo (Minett) across the border. Of course, it would be a very short movie if it really was a simple task and Mike soon finds himself stranded in Mexico and finding he enjoys the life down there while Polk gets more and more anxious about getting his son home for what turns out to be less than paternal reasons.
It feels like Eastwood has been playing this lonesome cowboy character for his entire career, but he is 91 now and it is impossible to ignore that. When he was originally offered this role he was 58 and that is a far more appropriate age to play this part. There is no denying his charisma but his grizzled and weathered looks are askew with the characters supposed age.
He does have a beautiful chemistry with young Minett, which is just as well since they have so many scenes together. They make a wonderful double act and have some beautiful moments. However, many of these moments involve a lot of exposition and that is a real issue with the script here. Instead of allowing the audience to witness developing relationships, everything is explained to us and it makes for rather tedious viewing.
The first act also feels chaotic and confused. It is as if Eastwood, who also directed, had a plan from the second act onwards but hadn’t really thought out how to get there fluidly.
Overall, however, his direction is commendable. It is steady and unhurried which works particularly well for the Mexico scenes. This is also where the cinematography comes into its own and these scenes are beautifully shot.
While the simplicity of this film is somewhat refreshing in the face of so many noisy blockbusters, it suffers from the fact that we have basically seen Eastwood do this story time and time again. It particularly has shades of Gran Torino and The Mule. I’m not saying Eastwood has turned into a one-trick pony but he is becoming somewhat set in his ways.
Perhaps if Eastwood had cast a younger actor in the lead and focused simply on the directing this would have been a better film. It’s nothing to write home about but will kill a couple of hours and has just enough magic moments to keep you watching to the end.