No conservative critic wants to admit that any Clint Eastwood film is less than great. Especially when it’s a film like “Cry Macho” whose strong, stoic lead implicitly thumbs his nose at notions like “toxic masculinity” while still acknowledging the tough guy cliché can be a burden when you no longer fit the mold.
In 1980, ranch boss Howard (Dwight Yoakum) calls in a favor from washed up bull-rider Mike Milo (Eastwood). He wants him to retrieve his wild 13-year-old son from the boy’s mother in Mexico City. When Mike arrives south of the border, he discovers that young Rafo (Eduardo Minett) has fled his glamorous drunk of a custodial parent and is instead living on the streets, making a living cockfighting with his rooster, Macho.
Having suffered at the hands of mom’s many boyfriends, Rafo has learned not to trust men. He’s willing to give Mike a chance, though, because Mike’s a real cowboy and has the cynical, world-weary squint to prove it.
As they wind along dusty roads, headed for the promised land of Texas, the pair form a cautious bond. Their trust in one another becomes all the more vital once Rafo’s madre decides she isn’t so willing to let him go after all, and sends the police and a hired henchman after him.
On the face of it, Mike and Milo’s father-son-style relating while evading Federales and gangsters should be the high points of the film. Instead, it all falls awkwardly flat, not least because both Eastwood and his young co-star are off their acting games. Their dialogue, already too on-the-nose for believability, is delivered with all nuance and depth of a high school play. But the story also struggles to hold attention because, in the immortal words of Danny Glover in “Lethal Weapon,” Eastwood may simply be getting too old for this stuff.
At 91, he is still eminently capable of masterful work, as we saw with his direction of 2019’s “Richard Jewell” and his performance in 2018’s “The Mule.” But he can no longer do all things. And believing that a nonagenarian is capable of punching out a thug half his age, attracting a woman a third of his age, and breaking a wild mustang a bare fraction of his age requires too much suspension of disbelief.
Thankfully, at the midpoint, the story arrives in a place that illustrates the more-authentic charisma Eastwood has developed at this stage of his career — the kind that understands that in a field of monosyllabic race car drivers and roided-out superheroes, the most manly attribute one can display is quiet capability. Not beating people up, but fixing old machinery and winning over wary strangers with years of hard-earned wisdom.
In a tiny cantina in a backwater pueblo, Mike meets a widowed señora who understands that it isn’t good for women to be alone any more than men. With their slow, chaste courtship, Mike’s journey takes a surprisingly romantic and lovely turn.
That may not be the tale that audiences signed up for with “Cry Macho,” but it’s the one part of the film they’ll be glad they saw.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
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