clint Eastwood’s new film often seems in an awful rush, which is some feat for the 91-year-old filmmaker and star. He plays Mike Milo, a curmudgeonly cowboy who gave up caring a long time ago, but still has a respectful way with animals and a personal debt owed to his boss Howard (Dwight Yoakam). No sooner have we met the pair than Mike is out on the open road, headed to Mexico to retrieve Howard’s teenage son Rafo (Eduardo Minett) from his abusive ex-wife – and bring him home to a safer, more stable environment.
It’s a jarring, clunky introduction to a film that’s overstuffed with exposition, as if Eastwood needs to exhale Mike’s backstory in one deep breath before he can really get going. His Mike as a distant figure, with a past that is rooted in tragedy, though Cry Macho‘s central quest gives him something to live for. After the fast start, everything thankfully slows down as Mike crosses the Mexican border. He finds Rafo easily, and they begin their journey back to the US with his mother’s hitmen in hot pursuit.
Cry Macho is typical Eastwood. Through Mike’s tentative bond with the young boy, the old cowboy imparts lessons of kindness and civility with a twinkle in his eye. Eventually, they take shelter in a small community and spend several weeks breaking horses and getting to know the locals. Rafo, who is enamoured with the idea of macho heroism, learns how to cook, repair and grow with the glacial rhythm of village life, before fate inevitably catches up with them.
Unfortunately, it’s then that the filmmaking becomes sloppy, reluctantly returning to a central plot which is half-baked at best. Howard’s vengeful ex wants her son back, and the action plays out via a handful of tepid, low-stakes confrontations. The casting feels off too, with Minett’s youthful lad too energetic alongside Eastwood’s washed-up horse breeder. His classic, measured wryness ends up undercutting any big emotional payoffs.
And yet Cry Macho is a handsomely crafted affair. There’s plenty of stark yet beautifully-captured vistas on display – while composer Mark Mancina’s rich score adds heft and gravitas. But beyond a pretty aesthetic – and Eastwood’s grisly charm – there’s little that makes this movie memorable.