HipZOMJoint (VINTAGECLASH) Movie Review: The Mule

VINTAGECLASH is a long time collaborator and friend of mine. My love for movies is only equaled to his. So its about time VINTAGECLASH had more of a voice on HipsterZOMBIEJoint.com! If you like his movie review let him know in the comments below.


He recently had a chance to check out Clint Eastwood‘s new flick, The Mule. This is his review:

A Clint Eastwood Fanboys take on a movie everyone seems to love but left me, MEH…

The Mule is a story about a 90-year-old horticulturist and Korean War veteran who gets involved with smuggling cocaine for a drug cartel, using the money he earns to right his wrongs when it comes to family and friends.

Now to start, I have been a fan of Eastwood’s since a child.  My grandfather sat me in front of every Spaghetti Western, Bad Cop/Good Cop film, and I have grown to love his other masterpieces like Gran Torino,  Million Dollar Baby, and Mystic River,  just to name a few of my top favorites out of 40+ directorial Credits… 

So in true Eastwood fashion, I will split this review up in 3 categories… The Good, The Bad, The Ugly…

The Good

Inspiration of the story:

Inspired by the TRUE story of Leo Sharp, a WWII war vet, horticulturist whose flower business was killed off with the rise of online commerce.  He got involved with the Sinaloa cartel running money and cocaine into Detroit and other cities for years until his arrest in 2011 to which he served 1 out of the 3 years due to health reasons dying at the age of 92 a free man.

So the inspiration is a greatly unique tale about how the heck did this old guy get mixed up with the likes of El Chapo as a mule?

Clint’s Story:

If anything I feel this was more about Clint’s own struggles in his personal life as a father and husband.  Casting his daughter Alison Eastwood as Earls daughter, who in the film has had her father miss important milestones in her life as a child and up to her wedding day.  Given Clint Eastwood’s commitment to his work and what we’ve read about throughout the years with family, I would say this was an opportunity (like in other films) to acknowledge those issues and tell his story/apologize through the film.


It’s not a comedy but it has great one-liners and adlibs.  Andy Garcia plays a Cartel Boss who almost seems a direct copy of his Terry Bennedict character from the Oceans series and has a great line after dealing with a disgruntled handler watching over Earl…It was very relatable if you have parents/family from the east coast and relatable response after venting forever on the phone.  Everyone laughed in the theater and was well placed with comedic timing.

Comedic Racial/societal stereotypes meet the line in this movie, nothing I have researched would indicate Leo Sharp in real life spoke this way to others but it’s not that hard to believe either.  Most of the gripes people had with this film were when Earl stops to help an African American couple with a flat tire on their Prius and offers to help them out changing their tire.  This is something the real Leo Sharp was apparently known for and so this scene was written in to showcase that.  After making fun of them for googling how to change a tire and their phones have no service, he helps with the tire and says “It’s nice to help you Negros out” to which they quickly educate him on his terminology and he appears to understand and continues to help.

He also speaks Spanish, more like SPANGLISH, and jokes around cussing and making jokes with his Hispanic friends about their cars (taco wagons), and in another scene when asked why all the white people were staring at them in the BBQ joint he says “Well they’re wondering why there are 2 beans in a bowl full of crackers”

To a 2018 crowd this may make them retreat to their Facebook and Twitter walls to post their grievances but honestly this is just something the older generation does.  They try and fit in, unaware, and come off unfiltered when they just try and make jokes.  We’ve all been there/done that and cannot pretend we don’t.  This film takes you both ways as well, you have your old white man jokes, a racist small town sheriff, and a scene where police shooting statistics on a high conflict stop are mentioned numerous times. 

The Bad:

You crazy kids today!

This movie is made for one demographic and that demographic is OLD.  Internet is bad, cellphones are stupid, texting is dumb, and “in my day…” lines throughout.  It’s a theme with a lot of these films that cast older actors thrown in current situations, relatable gripes of the 55+ crowd about how different this generation is from theirs but it’s played out in so many movies. 

Suspended belief:

Earl goes to his granddaughter’s engagement party only to be bullied out within the first 3 minutes by his ex wife and daughter who have held grudges all these years.  Insert RANDOM Hispanic party goer who meets Earl at his truck, asks if he’s a good driver, then gives him a phone number to some “guys who pay people like you to drive” Next thing you know he pulls into a tire shop and ready for business.

I mean….  Ok….   What was wrong with the real story?   In real life, day laborers who worked on earls property had mentioned they had friends and family who payed people, like earl, to drive dope across country and he finally went for it and started his life as a mule.  He saw this as a way to keep his property, help family and friends, he had nothing else to do, so he did it.

I feel they could’ve easily written this in rather than a chance party goer who had cartel connections.

The Cartel:

If you were to ask a 90 year old what they assumed the life of a cartel owner was, this movie translated it.  We have had enough news coverage, under cover reporting, and docuseries devoted to telling the stories of this criminal enterprise to know that the depiction in this movie was not accurate.  There’s a scene where you meet the Cartel Boss, Andy Garcia, who’s spending time shooting clay pigeons on what appears to be a private resort of some kind with 80’s styled bodyguards standing behind him.  He eventually invites Earl to party with them where you awkwardly see these guys dancing with Skinemax after dark ‘models’ by the pool to royalty free sounding music and sweeping butt shots of the same two girls.  Several Viagra and heart prescription jokes later we get into one of the biggest plot holes.

Julio, Earls Handler who hates him and at one point asks to kill him, is sitting alone by the pool and Earl tells him he should get out of the business, they don’t care about you and will kill you they aren’t a real family.  Julio tells Earl they took him in when he was young and a nobody, now he has a family and is somebody.  Earl then says it was just an idea and he walks away.  This is as close as a development you will see between the two and I thought this relationship would come back later as a positive but it doesn’t. 

Later in the film a new cartel boss takes over, puts on stricter rules and deadlines on transports, they drive Earl to the woods, show him a dead body in a trunk, and give him a new phone to show they mean business.  Julio tells him he’s not his friend and Earl is just a mule and an old man.  This is the last you see of Julio, so why add in that scene trying to change his path in life?

The Ugly….

Continuity is ridiculous in this film…  There are newer vehicles in parking lots throughout the film that are newer then when the movie took place.  They made Earl a Korean War Vet instead of a WWII vet and Im assuming they did that for more relatable storyline and the age group seeing the film.  He was never divorced and his wife was only 3 years younger than him, not 18 years like the movie indicates.  Again I think this was more for Clint Eastwoods story and using Earl as the vessel to tell it.  Why change it though?

In the movie there is a weird plot “twist” where another member of the crime family kills Andy Garcia’s  character while he’s shooting clay pigeons.  This was done to show a NEW BOSS was in charge and changing the rules but I think since they were making up plots they could’ve easily done this by a missed/late shipment and Garcia now needs to be tougher.

As his wife dies, he decides to not finish his run and holds on to 104 kilos of cocaine in his truck for a month, not answering the cartels calls/texts, spending time with his wife.  So I am supposed to believe a cartel won’t be able to track their phone, know where he lives, know his family situation, or even reach out to the guy who introduced them in the first place?  Then randomly they see him driving on the road and catch him off guard when he pulls over.

The film cuts to Earl with blood all over his face driving to the drop, presumably, where he is met with an army of agents and police blocking the roads and a helicopter seemingly 10 feet over head.  They arrest him and haul him in and we transition to court….. Where they imply…… that…. HE MURDERED THE TWO CARTEL HANDLERS THAT CONFRONTED HIM…… because this old guy can throw down.. I guess….

Before his lawyer can enter his plea he pleads GUILTY and now he’s planting flowers in prison.

Okay… in real life, he didn’t kill anyone; he was being tailed by the DEA and had a state trooper pull him over.  He was uncooperative and said he didn’t have the key to the duffle bags.  Drug dog was brought out and knowing the jig was up asked the police to kill him.  He made suicidal threats in the media and to police and was building a defense that the cartel took advantage of an old man with dementia… for 10 years…. He was eventually sentenced to 3 years, released in 1 and died the following year as mentioned in the beginning.

I wanted to like this film but I had to give it a 5/10…  I didn’t feel the need to walk out and it wasn’t a waste of time and money. I just felt they had a story perfect for the picking and shoved square pegs in round plot holes throughout.

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