Cry Macho – movie review

At 91 years of age Clint Eastwood climbs back into the saddle for this elegiac and reflective contemporary western. He plays Mike Milo, a washed-up former rodeo rider with a broken back who has fallen on hard times. He is asked by his former boss Howard (country singer and occasional actor Dwight Yoakam) to travel to Mexico City and find his 13-year-old son, whom he hasn’t since for seven years and bring him home to Texas. Howard fears that the boy’s mother is abusing him and letting him run wild on the dangerous and mean streets of Mexico City. Reluctantly Mike agrees, but mainly because he still owes Howard a great debt.

After being warned off by the boy’s bitter and alcoholic mother (Fernanda Urrejola) Mike finds the boy Rafa (Eduardo Minett, in his first Hollywood feature) involved in illegal cockfighting. The street-smart boy looks up to Mike because he’s a cowboy, and because he is looking for a father figure and someone he can trust. Rafa also brings along his prized rooster, named Macho, much to Mike’s initial discomfort, although it does get to save the day later on.

The pair make their leisurely way back to the Texas border, taking backroads and detours to avoid the federales and the mean hombres that Rafa’s mother has sent after them. During an extended stay in a small town after their car breaks down, Mike finds work helping a local rancher break in his wild horses. He also teaches Rafa to ride, which earns his respect, and teaches him the real meaning of being “macho”, a good man. He imparts some hard-earned life lessons to the boy along the way. He finds romance with Marta (Natalia Traven), a widowed grandmother who runs a local café that holds out some promise for a new beginning. Slowly a strong bond develops between Mike and the rebellious Rafa as they temporarily find shelter amidst the comfort of strangers.

Cry Macho is a gently paced road movie and redemption tale that is based on an unproduced 1975 screenplay and novel written by N Richard Nash (The Rainmaker). The script has been written by Nick Schenk, who also wrote The Mule and Gran Torino for Eastwood, and it deals with themes of heroism, masculinity, fatherhood.

As usual Eastwood’s direction is economical and unhurried, and he employs a deliberately slow and measured pace throughout. This leisurely, meandering pace gives us time to appreciate the wide open and picturesque landscapes of New Mexico, where the film was shot. The film has been beautifully shot in widescreen by Ben Davis (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) who gives the material an elegiac quality. The music score from Mark Mancina is also quite evocative.

Cry Macho marks something of a return to his cowboy roots for Eastwood (think Bronco Billy maybe forty years on), and his character here draws upon much of his own iconic filmography to shape his background. Eastwood’s laconic, sardonic, taciturn and cantankerous character is familiar territory, and he slips into the role comfortably. He may be 91 and look a little frail and more weathered and move slowly, but he still has presence. And he can still pack a punch when necessary. We all thought that Gran Torino was going to be Eastwood’s swan song as an actor, but thankfully he has been finding suitable roles that suit his age.

Minett is good as the rebellious and tough talking angry young man. The veteran Eastwood and relative newcomer Minette develop a wonderful rapport and chemistry that enlivens the material and leads to a satisfying emotional payoff.

Eastwood has been making roughly one movie a year for over a decade now, and while Cry Macho may not be his best film, it is still an enjoyable one that shows he hasn’t lost his touch after nearly 40 years of directing movies.

Greg King

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