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With: Clint Eastwood, Dwight Yoakam, Eduardo Minett, Natalia Traven, Fernanda Urrejola, Horacio Garcia Rojas, Alexandra Ruddy, Ana Rey, Paul Lincoln Alayo
Written by: Nick Schenk, N. Richard Nash, based on a novel by N. Richard Nash
Directed by: Clint Eastwood
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language and thematic elements
Running Time: 104
Date: 09/17/2021

Cry Macho (2021)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Morale Rooster

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

There's no getting around that Eastwood, at 91, looks a bit rickety for his role in Cry Macho, and that the movie feels a little slapdash, but it's also an unusually lovely, relaxed work from an icon of cinema.

Mike Milo (Clint Eastwood) is a washed-up rodeo star now working as a trainer for his loyal boss Howard Polk (Dwight Yoakam). Howard comes to Mike with a special task. Howard's 13 year-old son Rafael, "Rafo" or "Rafa" for short (Eduardo Minett), is down in Mexico with his irresponsible mother Leta (Fernanda Urrejola), and is possibly being abused. Howard cannot go into Mexico himself, so he asks Mike to retrieve the boy.

Mike finds Rafa at a cockfight with his prize rooster Macho. He talks the boy into coming with him to Texas with tales of his father's ranch and many horses. Unfortunately, the federales and Leta's bodyguards are on their trail. As they lay low in a small border town, they meet the widowed Marta (Natalia Traven), who runs a small restaurant with her four grandchildren. The longer they stay, the more they hesitate to leave.

In one scene, Rafa and a grumpy Mike must re-load a bunch of stuff into the trunk of their stolen car after the federales have searched it. A shirtsleeve hangs out of the closed trunk. Mike regards it for a second, starts to fix it, and then waves it off. Why bother? Oftentimes, Cry Macho itself feels like that. Some scenes seem to have been stuck together with certain details haphazardly left out.

Dialogue sounds blocky and over-explained. (The screenplay, which has apparently been floating around a while, is credited to Nick Schenk, who wrote Eastwood's Gran Torino and The Mule, and to the author of the novel it comes from, N. Richard Nash, who died in 2000.) And while Rafa is described as a tough, feral street-rat, the cherubic actor Minett who turns up doesn't quite fit the part, any more than Eastwood feels right for Mike. (It's especially awkward when not one but two women view Mike as a romantic/sexual partner.)

And yet, Cry Macho is such a precious movie. How few filmmakers were or are working at 91, and how many have the courage to show themselves onscreen at that age? (While the movie doesn't specifically discuss age, it's still there.) In a way, it plays like the final films of another great actor/director, Charlie Chaplin — A King in New York and A Countess from Hong Kong — a bit awkward, but still revealing.

Not to mention that this is Eastwood's 39th film, and learning as he did from Sergio Leone and Don Siegel, his classical, no-nonsense style has evolved into a beautiful polish. In this movie, as in many of his other movies, he wants to demonstrate inclusiveness for characters of color (even if he acknowledges cultural differences), to discuss the downsides of being "macho," and to show that there's a slower, more delicate, more observant rhythm of life.

Warner Bros. Home Video released a low-key Blu-ray worthy of its film, with a serviceable video transfer and audio track, and two very good behind-the-scenes bonus features (one on the making of the film and another one on handling the animals), with some on-set footage and decent interviews with Eastwood. Certainly this film isn't for everyone, but Eastwood fans, it's recommended.

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