Cry Macho is a film over 30 years in the making, so we’re told. Originally written in the 1970s, there have been numerous attempts at getting it made with stars such as Arnold Schwarzenegger attached at one point. The story about a former rodeo star who is hired to find a teenage boy in Mexico and return him to his father in Texas finally found life in 2020 with Clint Eastwood at the helm where he produces, directs and stars in the lead role.
Given the effort, time, and talent it took to bring this story to the screen I was expecting something along the lines of 2008’s Gran Torino. But with a woefully bad story, poor casting, and mediocre acting all around I was left wondering – what on earth were the filmmakers thinking? Maybe this one should have stayed on the shelf for another 30 years. Maybe forever.
It’s 1979 and Mike Milo (Clint Eastwood) is a retired rodeo star who suffered an injury that ended his career in his youth. Living in Texas, Mike is hired by his former employer, Howard Polk (Dwight Yoakam), to find and retrieve his teenage son Rafo (Eduardo Minett) from his mother Leta (Fernanda Urrejola) in Mexico and bring the boy across the border to live on Howard’s ranch in Texas. However, when Mike locates him in Mexico (a little too easily I might add), he discovers that, despite having an affluent mother, Rafo has turned to the streets and become a criminal.
Going against the will of Rafo’s mother, Milo takes the unlikable Rafo and his rooster, “Macho”, on a road trip towards the border. But numerous random encounters and a stopover in a small town where they meet Marta (Natalia Traven), a friendly cafe owner taking care of numerous granddaughters, transform what could have been an inter-generational story of male bonding into an exercise in audience patience.
This gives Leta’s woefully inept henchman Aurelio (Horacio García-Rojas) – possibly the most useless bad guy I’ve ever seen on screen – plenty of time to track them down. Not like it matters.
I generally love Clint Eastwood movies whether he’s in front or behind the camera. There’s no questioning how talented a filmmaker he is. So it pains me to say how awful and completely miscast he is for the role of Mike Milo, the has-been rodeo star.
Even though Eastwood still has that tough gravelly voice and hard-faced demeanor that allowed him to pull off being the toughest old guy ever in 2008’s fantastic Gran Torino, the years have taken their toll and it’s reached the point where Eastwood’s frail physique now mirrors that of the character Mr Burns from The Simpsons. It’s almost absurd to see him in front of the camera in such a physically demanding role.
Watching Eastwood try to convince the audience that he can go toe-to-toe with a rebellious teenager or beat up a henchman 60 years his junior or still break in wild horses is laughable and cringeworthy to see on screen. Particularly when he struggles to simply walk from A to B at any regular walking pace as if a simple gust of wind would knock him over. You feel concerned for his welfare watching him onscreen.
I realize this film was in development hell for years, but I’m not sure what Eastwood was thinking when he cast himself in the role.
Also as wafer-thin as Eastwood’s physique is the story itself, which is just as laughable to watch unfold. Realistically, there’s about 30 minutes of story that contributes to the premise of finding the boy and returning to Texas. The rest is just filler. You can cut almost every conflict situation, all the forced character development, everything that happens in the village, out of the movie and it wouldn’t make a lick of difference to the core premise. It feels like The Hobbit trilogy where they are desperate to pad out a short story into a longer story.
On top of that, the dialogue is unnatural and forced – particularly with Rafo. In order to pad out this nothing story, forced scenes of conflict and potential conflict that never amount to anything substantial have been added that don’t make logical sense at times. There’s a particularly painful, almost offensive, scene between Milo and Rafo at the start of their journey where Rafo has taken Milo’s wallet. Rafo has just made it easy for Milo to take him to Texas.
Yet after all the trouble of getting to this point, Milo decides he’s not taking him. Why? I mean there is sort of a reason which I won’t say to avoid spoilers. But it’s a pretty weak reason given where the characters find themselves at that point in the story.
I never thought I’d ever say this about a Clint Eastwood movie, but Cry Macho is garbage. To say I was disappointed is an understatement. With a badly written story, poor casting, mediocre acting, and the knowledge that Eastwood has done so much better in his filmmaking career, Cry Macho is a movie I can easily recommend…to stay away from. Go and watch Gran Torino instead and remember Eastwood in his later prime instead of watching him be a mere shadow of what he used to be.