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MOVIES: Cry Macho - Review

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Clint Eastwood has been making ‘his last film’ for a good several years now, it seems. The always prolific, experienced warhorse has been well-travelled ever since the days of Unforgiven, the peak of his career, a deconstruction of the western genre with a revisionist bent. He has never played the traditional hero – but that’s part of what makes Cry Macho, his latest feature, so special – it’s his kindest work yet, and he’s mellowed into a more well-meaning force of nature – what starts as a typical set-up for a standard American thriller paves way into a sombre, quieter affair – Eastwood’s Mike Milo is sent on behalf of an old rancher buddy into Mexico to reclaim the ranchers’ son from his estranged mother, who is rumoured to be abusive. Mike has a past – he’s world-weary and experienced in all manners of things from sign-language to looking after animals, and having spent time as a cowboy – he knows that the life isn’t all its cracked up to be.

The bond between Mike and Eduardo Minett’s Rafo develops in the same way that you’ve seen a few times before – think Wolverine and X-23 in Logan, and you get kind of the same idea here – it’s a faux-parental bond as Mike soon becomes the first person that Rafo actually trusts, and given that Mike meets both of Rafo’s parents – very deliberately – before he meets him – gives him an easy explanation for why the boy can easily drink alcohol with minimal complications, runs away from police and is training Macho, a rooster – to fight in cockfights. Macho represents the very ideal that Rafo wants to become and is quickly taken up by the idea that his father now cares for him – being sold promises of the American dream. It’s also very telling that in this film – Macho the chicken gets involved in more fights and beats up more people than Clint Eastwood does.

Cry Macho exists on its own as a pure antithesis to much of Eastwood’s work before it. Even The Mule, which was more subdued than ever – it’s a deconstruction of his entire career, using Mike Milo through the same lens that Leonardo DiCaprio Rick Dalton dissected his career in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood - or maybe the character that Rick was reading in that book about the cowboy when he was talking to Trudi on set. They’re both comparable figures in outlook and it’s easy to imagine Mike, 20 or 30 years ago – being a Rick Dalton-type figure of his own craft. Eastwood gives it his all, and whilst the same cannot sadly be said for Eduardo Minett, who’s no Dafne Keen and clearly the weak link here – their bond feels authentic and real, and when Mike teaches Rafo to ride a horse, Cry Macho really shines – as it does when the two spend time in a small Mexican village on their way back to Texas.

This is where the film is at its most humane – and whilst it leads to the film feeling like one long second act, this kind of humanity is especially rare in a film with the premise that Cry Macho has nowadays – and it’s appreciated, beautifully shot and brought to life by cinematographer Ben Davis, freed from the bland CGI-driven Marvel Cinematic Universe – Davis shows what he’s truly capable of, bringing back the magic of films like Stardust that he was also the cinematographer for.

Having considered the idea before at a younger age – Cry Macho is adapted from M. Richard Nash’s titular 1975 novel – Eastwood now feels like he’s the right age to finally play the character, and we’re all the better for it. Whilst this could be a perfect swansong to his career, just like The Mule was – I really hope it isn’t. His 2010s may have given us plenty of hits and equally, plenty of misses – but there’s life in Eastwood yet.

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