“If a guy wants to call his cock Macho, that’s fine by me!’. It may not replace ‘Go on, punk, make my day in the big book of Clint Eastwood quotes, but then again, his latest film as director, producer and star is very much part of a gentle recanting of Eastwood’s own image from the 70’s and 80’s. Few stars have ever boasted the sheer machismo of Eastwood, who pretty much single-handedly dragged the Western, and cinema as a whole, into raw, modern territory with his spaghetti Westerns, before cementing his reputation as violent San Francisco cop Dirty Harry. That’s just two of the key passages from arguably the most storied career of a living superstar to date, but his recent efforts as a leading man, Gran Torino and The Mule, have moved away from hard-man gunplay and into a more melancholy vibe.
Working with the writer of the two films mentioned, Nick Schenk, Eastwood fashions Cry Macho as something of a rebuke to some of his more excessive films; it’s essentially a two hander between rodeo-rider Mike Milo (Eastwood) and a young boy called Rafo, played by Eduardo Minett. Mike is hired by a work associate (Dwight Yoakam) to travel to Mexico and retrieve his son from his ex-wife; it slowly dawns on Milo that the reason for the trip is essentially kidnapping in order to gain purchase in a divorce settlement. Betrayed, Milo finds some solace in his relationship with Rafo, who has a thirst for alcohol and a penchant for cock-fighting. The two, and a large rooster along for the ride, kill a few days in a quiet Mexican village, knowing that time, the law, and the various unscrupulous parties are catching up with them…
A script which became a book, and mooted for a vehicle for everyone from Burt Lancaster to Arnold Schwarzenegger, Cry Macho feels like a mid-70’s movie; it’s short, lacks contrivance, and focused on personal development rather than goals. As a star, Eastwood has had more curtain calls than Frank Sinatra, but this is arguably the best of the bunch, gliding gently to an understated halt. While the pace is deliberately slow and the dialogue sparse, it’s very much an Eastwood movie, with Eastwood the director giving Eastwood the star a custom–made vehicle that makes for an ideal swan-song.
Of course, that could be said for almost any Eastwood movie since 1990’s The Rookie; in an age of anonymous directors and films written by committee, Cry Macho is an unmistakably personal film, and you can take it or leave it depending on your interest in Eastwood. But by shunning gunplay, and the blood-thirsty morality with which his name was often associated, Eastwood has mellowed into a gentle soul, and Cry Macho is worth savouring because this particular kind of careful, thoughtful film-making is very much against the grain in 2021.
Thanks to Warner Brothers UK for access to this film, which is out tomorrow Nov 12 2021.