When special DEA Agent Colin Bates (Bradley Cooper) learns about this new drug mule in town—Tata alias Earl Stone, who has been successfully managing to carry shipments worth millions of dollars into different states within America, he goes on a massive manhunt and builds a trap for him to fall into. The 80-year-old mule Earl Stone, on the other hand, is facing bankruptcy, foreclosure and abandonment by family caused by his own wrongdoings during earlier years. When money gets tight and an alarming sense of cleaning up his past deeds catches up with him, Stone decides to tread along the wrong path to make things right.
‘The Mule’ is about this dysfunctional family with broken ties — which stems out of the fact that the patriarch of the household has always dodged his responsibilities and has always gone about pleasing the world outside of the four walls of his home — with crime being its parallel plot. The central character in this drama evokes a sense of pity, despite exhibiting traits of an exceedingly selfish person, when he apologises to his former wife and daughter for being an absent husband and father. He loathes the fact that he has spent a significant amount of time doing things that no longer matter. But the back story seems inadequate and doesn’t provide enough pathos for the viewers to invest in Eastwood’s character. Also, it doesn’t quite seem convincing that a diligent DEA officer like Bates only shows up at random intervals and yet manages to catch the culprit in the end.
Clint Eastwood, both as the director and protagonist of the film, lives up to the audience’s expectations — he is funny, witty, withdrawn and an emotional wreck, all at the same time. The background score by Arturo Sandoval is refreshing and so is the smooth transition between two periods — early 2000s and the contemporary timeline, too.
The storyline of The Mule is relatable but it’s also quite predictable. An absent and irresponsible father, who is busy revelling in his glory, forgets to cater to the needs of his own. But the film lacks depth needed to make this family drama completely convincing. Also, Bradley Cooper’s role as the DEA Agent isn’t as good as it should have been. All-in-all, this real-life inspired story could have tugged at the heartstrings had the writer Nick Schenk dealt with the subject with a little more precision. He tries dabble with two very diverse worlds (a family setting and a world of international crime), but fails to do justice to either one.
In the end, ‘The Mule’ struts along with the performance of Eastwood, piggy backing on his charisma alone.