The longer you keep making movies, the greater the likelihood you end your career with a dud. Clint Eastwood (“Million Dollar Baby”) has been riding that line for about 15 years now, and if his new film “Cry Macho” ends up being his last, it will be a forgettable end to the iconic actor/director’s filmography.
Now 91 years old, Eastwood once again directs himself. In the movie, he plays a former rodeo star and horse trainer tasked with bringing his former boss’s son home from Mexico. The story feels like your standard road trip movie, where the characters don’t get along at first but slowly begin to build respect for each other. There are slight conflicts that arise from secrets that are resolved in almost no time, and the main plot gets dragged out because a few-hour road trip doesn’t have enough story to fill a 90-minute runtime.
It’s a real shame that the film plays out in such a standard way because Eastwood can usually add an interesting twist to what feels like something we’ve seen a million times. “Unforgiven,” for example, takes a cliché Western revenge story and turns it into a poignant rumination on obsession, violence and justice. “Million Dollar Baby” takes your classic underdog sports drama and turns it into a devastating tragedy.
Unlike those two Oscar-winning films, “Cry Macho” never breaks from its tired narrative — it is happy to just sit back and hit the familiar beats without making much noise.
Even when the film tries to dig a bit deeper and flesh out the quasi-father-son relationship between Mike (Eastwood) and Rafo (Eduardo Minett, debut), it feels redundant, reminding audiences of the dynamic between Eastwood and the boy in “Gran Torino.” The whole film feels devoid of new ideas, making it feel wholly unnecessary.
The film’s by-the-numbers story and characters aren’t helped by its agonizingly slow pacing. Eastwood does not portray the balance between toughness and tenderness that he once did in his best roles. When he has to show toughness, it doesn’t have the same effect it once did; the actor’s scenes feel softer now, no longer bringing the same level of threat or violence. When Eastwood has to show tenderness, which seems to happen a lot more in “Cry Macho” than in his other films, his relatively weak acting skills are exposed. His performance holds the film back, and you have to wonder if it might have worked a bit better if he had stayed behind the camera as he did in his previous film, “Richard Jewell.”
It would be a shame for Clint Eastwood to go out on a low like “Cry Macho.” He’s one of the most iconic figures in Hollywood history, and has made enough good movies for us to know he has one last gem in him. For someone whose films usually have something to say even when they don’t work, it’s ultimately a disappointment to see Eastwood put out a film that feels like it doesn’t need to exist.
Daily Arts Writer Mitchel Green can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.