Getting old is a long and often lonely road, one that Clint Eastwood knows well. More than fifty years have passed since the spaghetti westerns that made Eastwood a household name and nearly twenty since his last Academy Award. Now 91 years old, far closer to the end of that road than the beginning, Eastwood is still making movies. With Cry Macho, like The Mule before it, the cowboy of old Hollywood is starting to grapple with his journey coming to an end.
Mike Milo (Eastwood) used to be something. He was a cowboy, a rodeo star and, most importantly a father and husband. That was a long time ago, before a rodeo accident left him physically hobbled and a tragic car accident tore his family away. Now Mike is just trying to get by and pay the bills. With little else to fill his time, he agrees to take a trip down to Mexico to bring his boss Howard’s (Dwight Yoakam) preteen son Rafo (Eduardo Minett) back to Texas.
Cry Macho is, in it’s very concept, pure Clint Eastwood. A cowboy on a dangerous journey through Mexico with just a touch of jingoism and some frontier justice is exactly the type of story Eastwood has been telling his whole life. And why wouldn’t he? The unbridled machismo and American exceptionalism on display in his westerns and subsequent directorial efforts made Eastwood iconic to a generation of filmgoers. Time comes for us all though and each of Clint’s films feels increasingly like a man desperately hanging onto something he long ago lost.
There isn’t anything so inherently objectionable about Cry Macho as the Kathy Scruggs debacle in Richard Jewell — among others — or the mild racism percolating under the surface of The Mule. For the most part this is a subtle, often sweet film about an old man finding purpose in his life again. It takes longer to get there than was probably necessary, but the core is solid.
Still, Cry Macho is a film where 91 year old Eastwood is seduced by multiple women half his age. He still gives himself a scene knocking down a Mexican thug with one swift punch. As he has his whole career, Eastwood chooses self glorification over self reflection. Rather than look back on his life as a cinematic buckaroo with the power of hindsight, Clint consistently chooses his own myth-making. After nearly 40 directing credits and 130 as an actor, an illustrious career for sure, he’s earned that right, but the result has consistently been films that lack depth and intrigue.
Mike and Rafo traverse the lawless roads of Mexico — I’m not sure Eastwood has ever considered our neighbors to the south in any other manner — helping the hapless locals everywhere they go and forming an almost familial bond. Rafo is obsessed with the idea of machismo and toughness while Mike is supposed to be its embodiment. Cry Macho never really grapples with that dichotomy or those underlying ideas.
Cry Macho is a simply Clint Eastwood western. One that is hobbled by its star’s advanced age yet also made all the more impressive by that same fact. At 91, we shouldn’t expect anything other than the same Eastwood we’ve known for decades and that’s okay. Cry Macho can exist as one of the finally steps on the path of Hollywood’s most illustrious cowboys. 6/10