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Review by Rich Cline |
dir Clint Eastwood
scr Nick Schenk, N Richard Nash
prd Clint Eastwood, Albert S Ruddy, Tim Moore, Jessica Meier
with Clint Eastwood, Eduardo Minett, Natalia Traven, Dwight Yoakam, Fernanda Urrejola, Horacio Garcia Rojas, Marco Rodriguez, Rocko Reyes, Paul Lincoln Alayo, Jorge-Luis Pallo, Ana Rey, Ivan Hernandez
release US 17.Sep.21,
21/US Warners 1h44
Is it streaming?
At 91, Clint Eastwood brings his considerable grizzled presence to a role that perhaps should have been played by someone three decades younger. But with his steely directing style, the story plays out with a steady pace that holds the attention. If only the writing were more up to scratch, because the script is painfully obvious about each element in the story, never developing badly needed resonant subtext.
In 1978 Texas, five-time rodeo champ and retired horse breeder Mike (Eastwood) is surprised when his rude ex-boss Howard (Yoakam) turns up to call in a favour, asking Mike to travel to rural Mexico and rescue his 13-year-old son Rafo (Minett) from an abusive situation his mother Leta (Urrejola) is fuelling. Leta tells Mike that he's not the first man sent to kidnap her out-of-control son. But Rafo wants to go. As they hit the road, Leta's goon Aurelio (Rojas) is on their trail. And Mike sets out to teach Rafo a few life lessons.
Despite the gritty tone, the movie feels painfully simplistic. Rafo's wildness is depicted by introducing him as a participant in a cockfighting ring (his rooster Macho travels with them). Or the 40-ish Leta's implausible attempt to seduce Mike. Or the even less likely spark he finds with diner owner Marta (Traven). More interesting is the jagged chemistry between Mike and Rafo, who clash but mainly get along just fine. And because the police are also after this mismatched duo, each obstacle creates another adventure for them.
Eastwood's stony charisma as a hat-wearing cowboy of few words harks back to his spaghetti Western days. His Mike is a likeable loner who calls everyone on their nonsense. He also quietly demands respect from everyone he meets, and actually begins to like Rafo's independent spirit. Minett is solid as a rebellious teen who thinks he's a man, although he wobbles a bit when Rafo gets emotional. The more relaxed, humorous moments are the best ones.
Mike will clearly tame Rafo in the same manner that he works with horses. Mike's redemptive journey is so hokey that it's almost non-existent, as is Rafo's journey of self-discovery. There's also not much of a threat from the various factions lined up against Mike and Rafo along the road. In other words, the thrills are underwhelming, while the drama feels contrived and sometimes ridiculous. But the gently rolling narrative, vacuous as it may be, makes it almost watchable.
R E A D E R R E V I E W SStill waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2021 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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