Taking on a charming and cheeky role as aged drugs mule Earl Stone, Clint Eastwood stars and directs this surprisingly captivating tale of family, time and reconciliation. Stone stumbles upon hard times, and therefore when he is offered a job in which all he has to do is drive, well, it proves difficult for him to resist. Quickly becoming entangled in the world of drug cartels, prostitutes and murder, Earl manages to maintain his charisma and wit, and above all, integrity.
On the surface, this is simple tale of a man being chased by the law, and eventually being caught. However, Clint Eastwood’s star quality carries the film, adding humour in the most unlikely of places. It cannot fail to bring a smile to your face when the drug dealers who are listening in on Earl begin singing along with his less than tuneful renditions on his journeys, or when they rather endearingly bestow him with the nickname Tata, meaning Papa. This abuelito is not in the drug business for any reasons more complex than needing the money. From forking out on a refurb of his regular haunt to helping pay for his daughter’s wedding, Earl’s use of the money is no less than noble.
The most prominent theme is family, with the action of the plot playing out alongside attempts from Earl to reconvene with his estranged daughter and ex-wife, whilst attempting to be accepted into this new form of family of the cartel. One of the members even claims “I was nobody… here, I’m somebody,” emphasising the sense of belonging that comes with being part of such an organisation. Ultimately, Earl’s ex- wife breathes some of her final words on her death-bed: “you didn’t have to get rich for us to want you around,” highlighting the ultimate victory of Stone’s true family over the ‘family’ of the cartel.
Opening with scenes of Stone cultivating his plants as a keen prizewinning horticulturist, and closing on the similar scene, although taking place within a federal prison, both delinquency and penalty are portrayed as somewhat serene. This is thanks to the calming screen presence of Eastwood, his youthfulness of spirit and the country-based soundtrack which ends, appropriately, with Toby Keith’s ‘Don’t Let the Old Man In,’ as Earl continues to tend to his flowers, and is at peace.
Image: Claire Folger via Warner Bros.