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Review: 'Cry Macho' (2021) Dir. Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood, Dwight Yoakam, Eduardo Minett, Fernanda Urrejola, Natalia Traven, Horacio Garcia Rojas and Marco Rodríguez


Adapted from the 1975 Western novel by author N. Richard Nash and originally a vehicle for Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2011, Clint Eastwood gets back in the saddle as director and star...

Former rodeo star Mike Milo (Eastwood) has retired due to a back injury. His old boss Howard Polk (Yoakam) needs a favour, and he knows Mike owes him one. Polk wants his estranged 13 year old son, Rafo (Minett) to come home.

`The catch? Rafo is living with his mother, Meta (Urrejola), in Mexico and has turned to a life of crime influenced by the wrong people around him. Mike gives Howard his word he'll go and bring him back across to American soil.

Mike sets out on a journey to find Rafo and escort him home safely, away from those who have a hold on him and his mother. Mike may be a red-neck cowboy at heart, but he's human who will do the right thing when it's required of him for the right people...

At 91 years young, Clint Eastwood is truly one of the last of his generation. An actor, producer, writer and director in the industry for 8 decades is nothing to be frowned at, and he's still producing material today. The good think about Eastwood is that his material as an actor, he always caters to his age first; he's never portraying a younger man than he should be. Here, as former rodeo star Mike Milo, he's a late 80s Texan who loves the thrill of the cowboy life - working on ranches, with horses and coasting the dry open plains for an honest living.

"If a guy wants to name his cock Macho, that's ok by me," Milo smirks in the film. It's a line you can just imagine coming from his Harry Callahan character of the 70s and 80s. The drawl and tough shell, soft heart hero Eastwood has played in his career as a "macho" himself is not lost on Milo, and that's what you want from Eastwood. You know the all-American he conveys, and you wouldn't want anything less. Similar to 2008s Gran Torino, Eastwood is the older, wiser, meaner semi-father figure to our young loner, this time being Eduardo Minett in his first major American role.

But away from being the older semi-father figure, he's not just a cantankerous racist with a chip on his shoulder. This time Eastwood is respectful and understanding of the culture clash and has an evident heart under that rough exterior, but never afraid to speak his mind when emotions get tense or dish our some justice with a balled fist, again all catering to his age and not being anything a man in his position wouldn't be. He's slower, has aches and needs a nap now and then. We also see some real emotional acting from him, something we've not seen in many years. We've grown with Eastwood as a talent, and it's lovely to see him still going strong at 91 with passion for filmmaking and acting in varied roles.

Eastwood may be a little slower and wizened around the edges at 91, but his no frills, sharp wit and a charming screen presence is as strong as it was decades ago.

The relationship with Minett's Mexican wild boy Rafo is the crux of his journey across Mexico back to America. Minett shows great spirit alongside Eastwood, especially with his pet cockfighting rooster 'Macho'. He's polite and willing to change, to learn and be someone worthy, not just out to cause trouble. An odd couple if you've ever seen one, but there's much more respect and camaraderie here between the pair than simply bickering or rebelling. It's a nice change from what has come before for Eastwood, and helps make the story easy to watch and follow.

We get some decent support from a host of domestic actors such as Natalia Traven who helps warm our rodeo's heart, Fernanda Urrejola as a failed mother and US singer Dwight Yoakam as the father who wants it all. They all add to the flavour of the film and the authenticity Eastwood strives for as director, never using A-list Hollywood stars for roles when natural talent of the country can suffice.

As always for a film under Eastwood's eye, everything is for a purpose in terms of cinematography, score and editing. It's a gentle paced film at just over 1hr 40mins and never drags. Everything on screen looks great to give a real sense of the new Mexico cultures blending with old; the dusty shanty towns on one side of the road, an lawmen and border patrols on the other. There's no frills in what we see, but what is framed looks expansive and rich, especially the landmarks used.

This is a faithful adaptation from the novel by N. Richard Nash, and a near perfect film for Eastwood to take as actor and director. It's familiar territory for him - juggling relationships, self-discovery and evading tame danger such as inquisitive cops and (inept) cartel thugs. Heart is never lost in Cry Macho, and while the danger is few and far between, this is a neo-Western drama first that puts characters over anything else, and all the better for it when we come to the journey's end.

"This macho thing is overrated," Milo observes. For a career spent being macho, this feels like a solid bookend to a fully macho acting career.

One of the most heart-felt films in Eastwood's recent career, this is a lovely journey to take with him, along with a strong cast across rustic, authentic Mexican locations.

'Cry Macho' is a Malpaso Productions production

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