Clint Eastwood puts the cowboy hat back on for his first Western since 1992’s Unforgiven. He produces, directs, and stars in Cry Macho, a neo-Western drama about Mike Milo (Eastwood), a former rodeo star hired to bring a 13-year-old named Rafo (Eduardo Minett) back to his father.
Eastwood is a pioneer of the Western genre, having famously portrayed The Man With No Name in Sergio Leone’s Dollars Trilogy. After a decades-long production history with Arnold Schwarzenegger briefly landing the lead role before becoming governor of California, a 91-year-old Eastwood stepped into the director’s chair and the spotlight.
It’s great to see him on screen again in a Western where his character has aged with him, but unfortunately, this movie does not have much to offer. This film has one of the blandest screenplays of the year, not committing any big mistakes while not taking a single narrative risk.
Eastwood’s acting and directing prowess at his age is quite impressive. You can see how much work he puts in both in front of and behind the camera, and his dedication to film is remarkable. His performance in the movie contains a lot of grumbling, but his character is not as rough as meets the eye.
This is a movie about the idea of being macho and what that means. The two leads, Mike and Rafo, are two opposite sides of this macho coin, as Rafo thinks it’s imperative to be macho. Meanwhile, Mike is a character who has put the idea of machoness behind him and focuses on being a good person instead.
While it’s interesting to see how the characters butt heads over their different values but slowly connect, the movie offers nothing we haven’t seen before. The film’s story surrounding a tough, rugged hero who gets softened up when they team up with a young child has been done to death.
Earlier this year, we got Those Who Wish Me Dead, a movie about a woman who has to keep a boy safe from the killers hunting him down. Perhaps even more similar, we had The Marksman, a film about a rugged white cowboy who has to drive a young Mexican child around the border to keep him safe from the killers after him.
We’ve had similar ideas in Westerns for decades, with Star Wars taking a spin on the concept with The Mandalorian, a series about a formidable bounty hunter who keeps a young child safe from the people who are after him.
This concept is the epitome of the phrase “done to death.” We’ve seen this premise done so many times that it does not hold any water anymore, and unfortunately, this film recycles this beat-for-beat formula without anything unique to say.
While the film isn’t a Western with gunslingers, fast draws, or bulletproof vests, the movie would have been better had it been a tribute to the Westerns of the ’60s. Because while this isn’t a remake or sequel to an existing IP like most movies are these days, the film has so little ingenuity that it feels like a remake of five hundred other films.
If there’s anything unique the film has going for it, it’s that it doesn’t go down the action-heavy thriller route that many of these films go for. Instead, this movie is more of a slow burn drama that sits with the characters, and while it’s always engaging, it doesn’t offer a single memorable sequence.
And despite the film’s attempts at being more of a straightforward drama, the movie still throws in a villain who’s chasing the kid. This movie could have gone to unique places, but it doesn’t take a single narrative risk, making sure to stick to the formula like glue.
It doesn’t help that the film contains some blatant dialogue where characters state everything on their minds with no subtlety. Furthermore, there’s an emotional moment near the end that Minett, unfortunately, did not sell.
While this isn’t an atrocity of a film, it’s an aggressively mediocre experience that won’t make you feel anything you haven’t already felt. Eastwood’s screen presence is always welcome on the big screen, but the unoriginal screenplay holds this movie back from being anything more remarkable than it is.
Grade: ★★✬☆☆ [5/10, C]
Jonathan’s Tips: If you’ve exhausted Eastwood’s filmography, you might as well catch this one too. If you’re looking for a good movie, this one may not do it for you.
Cry Macho is in theaters and streaming on HBO Max.