I’d love to have the luxury to direct movies the way Clint Eastwood does. If the baby doesn’t arrive to set, just replace it with a doll—no need for many takes. We just move on to the next scene, then call it a day. What’s he rewarded with? Two Oscars, but you know what, he deserved them. Serving so many years in front of the camera and as the Mayor of Almanac, Clint could have ended his career. But he continued to direct. If there’s one thing, I love and hate Clint for it’s show business. Cry Macho resembles how fake yet lovable Hollywood can be.
Television shows are often filmed by interchangeable directors, who are outstanding storytellers but far from auteurs. Marvel has their formula similar to half of the indie world, using the same tired aesthetic of shooting movies with no tripod. At the end of the day, it’s just a show, pick a good script, and the rest will come naturally to the director. Mystique River is a remarkable film with a profound ending. It’s follow-up Million Dollar Baby puts a lump in your throat for more than one reason. Unforgiven, Letters from Iowa Jima, these are fantastic films. When Clint runs into clunker of a script, I don’t see a phenomenal director failing; I see another rent-a-director making another forgotten film.
Clint’s style is almost as old as his skin. He shoots his scenes with the classic three-camera setup: master plus two over the shoulders. Sprinkle in some occasional crane or dolly moves for variety, so no one notices. Clint will sometimes handle the music himself; just give him a piano, and he’ll play a little tune. Clint’s macho persona knows how to cut through the boring details and get to the point.
The Macho image is simple. Men have to protect themselves from a world that wants to hurt them. Macho is Rafa’s prizefighting rooster. Mike Milo (Clint Eastwood) is assigned by his distant father (Dwight Yoakam) to bring his son home. Rafa’s mom (Fernanda Urrejola) happens to be a beautiful mob boss who is attracted to senior citizens? Dwight Howard could be Fernanda Urrejola’s grandfather. Somehow we’re to believe he’s the father of her child. Hollywood may have gotten to Clint’s head with older men marrying women decades younger than them. A love interest between a widow (Natalia Traven) and Mr. Eastwood begins to spark because he’s a nice guy, and that’s about as complex as that goes.
Every woman Clint brushes up against seems to want to romance him because 91-year-old gringos are all the rage in Mexico. If you are to make Natalia Traven’s character work for the story, cast a grandmother. I’m sure there are plenty of senior Latino actresses who’d be happy to take the role. There’s something old school in that tired convention of the tough guy protagonist, attracting everyone from the opposite sex his way. Cry Macho is very much a traditional western that’s classic in the sense that it doesn’t need to be retold if there’s nothing of clear substance to say.
Rafa names his cock macho as a display of masculinity. The movie has no problem in chuckling at the analogy. Long-time Screenwriter and Eastwood collaborator Nick Schenk could have explored the concept of what it means to be masculine. Is it useful, is it idiotic, is both? None of it matters beyond classic conventions. Rafa is ruining his life by living on the streets, pretending to be macho so he can survive. Eastwood finds a similarity in Rafa’s rebelliousness only to learn how stupid it all was in the end. It’s the classic mentor menteee tale. What either man learns about machoism is covered in a singular weepy instance. Everything else is watered down standoffs.
Events continually happen with surface-level connections to the characters. A kind family takes in Clint Eastwood when his car breaks down. So he falls in love with the widow of the family. Rafa is insecure, so he proves to be harsh to everyone. An intelligent script would have followed Rafa’s destructive path towards something meaningful at the end. Perhaps a message about growth or turning the other cheek when faced with insurmountable adversity. Nope! Everyone gets by each scrape through the grit of their teeth, outsmarting their opponent. Perhaps he forgot in his old age, but Clint made this movie already with Mr. Shenk, Gran Torino, and it was far better.
Not intentional, but there’s an odd midnight quality to the movie. The lack of choreography in the fights is downright hilarious. Men in their twenties receive a soft jab from Clint’s wrinkled hand, and they immediately yield. Problem resolved. But isn’t being macho supposed to be wrong? The irony in the script’s tone-deafness to its theme is baffling in and of itself. The chemistry between Mike and Rafa is strange. I almost expected Clint to slip into his racist Gran Torino character and call Rafa “Ralph” in the movie set in Mexico.
You know what, though? Clint’s earned to make this stinker. Clint Eastwood isn’t a dummy; even if I despise his politics and think he’s a mediocre filmmaker, I still give him credit. He knows how to make a movie quickly, easily, and efficiently. When Clint makes a movie with a lousy script, you can imagine what follows. Next time (if he’s still alive), Mr. Eastwood can maybe have a comeback if the right script falls into place. All he has to do is occasionally get up from the directing chair between takes.
Do you agree with my rating?