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Cry Macho

Director – Clint Eastwood – 2021 – US – Cert. 12 – 104m

***1/2

A rodeo star and horse trainer well past his prime is sent to bring his boss’ son back to Texas from his “abusive” mother in Mexico – out in cinemas on Friday, November 12th

1979. Mike Milo (Clint Eastwood) is late for work. Again. His boss Howard Polk (Dwight Yoakam) ticks him off. Milo verbally lays into him. Gets fired. Newsreel footage from back in the day shows Mike’s rodeo accident, when a horse threw him and he landed on his back. He’s never been the same since.

They go back a long way, though, and that isn’t the end of their relationship. Howard phones Mike for a favour. Howard hasn’t seen his son since the boy was six. He’s now 13 and living with his mother, Howard’s estranged ex, down in Mexico. Howard has heard is son is being abused, although he doesn’t clarify. He wants Mike to go down to Mexico and bring the boy back.

Mike is unsure but agrees. His attempt to complete this task will form the body of the movie. He finds the mother’s house easily enough. She turns out the sort who hosts a party a night and has plain clothes security people on her property; also the kind of person who considers it a personal insult if she asks you to drink with her or sleep with her and you refuse. Mike refuses both and they part on bad terms. Not, however, before she’s told him where he might find her typically absent son, after claiming she has no idea where he might be. She suggests trying the local cockfight.

Sure enough, Mike goes to a local cockfight and there is the kid Rafo (Eduardo Minett) competing with his pet rooster. He doesn’t like his mother much, but his dad abandoned him, so he doesn’t plan to go with someone his dad sent to get him. As well as his cockfighting talents, the boy also does a nice line in stealing cars. Which means that when Milo’s wheels gets stolen, without being asked, the boy provides a replacement.

The ensuing relationship resembles a father and son, bolstered into a nuclear family when, stranded in a village after a car theft, the pair run into middle-aged grandmother of several girls Marta (Natalia Traven) who runs a local restaurant. Milo falls herd while Rafo becomes smitten with the teenage granddaughter. But with his mother’s security detail on their trail, in due course they have to move on…

This effortlessly moves between genres – a drama about old age, loss and regret, a bonding tale about a father and son, a romance, and a thriller as the pair evade their pursuers. Had it been made by someone no-one had heard of, it would probably garner praise for making a seemingly uninspired tale so consistently hold the audience’s attention, being polished in all departments and showcasing a clutch of strong, solid performances.

Because it’s late Eastwood, though, it might easily get dismissed as a lesser work by a director who some might compare to the character he plays here, an old, damaged professional who’s past his prime. Yet while there’s no doubt he’s made stronger movies with more resonance, Eastwood still gives us much to enjoy here, including a terrific portrayal of the boy by Minett and a mostly (but not always) slow performance by the ageing actor himself who shows he’s till got it – as both icon and director. Plus, it’s hard to dislike a cockerel capable of delivering at least one terrific action set piece.

Blessed with a clever script that constantly surprises, the whole thing is pulled together so seemingly effortlessly that you forget you’re in the hands of a master. It may not be be on the top of anyone’s must see list, but it’s a decent little film and if you make the effort to seek it out, you won’t be sorry you did.

Cry Macho is out in cinemas in the UK on Friday, November 12th.

Trailer:

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