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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Late Bloomer

The Mule (2018) on IMDb

Plot Overview

Earl Stone (Clint Eastwood) is part of the greatest generation. He enlisted as a teen­ager to fight the Boche and had to operate on army time to beat them. When he got out he took to raising day lilies and selling them on cross-country junkets where his schedule allowed him beaucoup flexibility. He met a lot of people including a winner of a girl, Mary (Dianne Wiest) whom he married. They shared some good times together.

By and by he forgot their anniversary, being on the road and all. This happened more than once. When they had a girl child, she had her own special days that he kept missing. He was slow to adopt family time as a precedent over work time. He and his wife & family became estranged. The movie opens in 2005 on his daughter's wedding day that he misses as well. He's at an International Day Lily Family Convention where he notices one small exhibit that features flowers ordered over the Internet.

cop writing ticket“The Mule” jumps ahead twelve years to 2017 when Earl finds a foreclosure notice posted on his Sunny Meadows spread. “Damn Internet, it ruins every­thing!” he declaims. When asked what he'll do now, he replies, “Never was a plan B type of guy.” When his pal Rico learns of his spot­less driving record, he suggests, “I know some people who will pay you to just drive from one city to another.” There's good money in it and when his handler Julio (Ignacio Serricchio) complains that he won't adhere strictly to the manifest schedule, the higher-ups consider this a plus as it makes him unpre­dic­table to the law. Then there's a shakeup in command and the new guy wants strict scheduling or else.


“The Mule” is not a propaganda piece against drugs. Apart from their illegality the only negative factor attached to the drug trade in this movie is potential violence in the supply line. The pickups and transfer points are watched over by guys with semi­auto­matics. Since so much money is involved the business may degenerate into infighting, and since Earl is likely to be perceived as a source of inefficiency, he can be indirectly responsible for the replacement of his bosses. One would think he'd do well to avoid that business to keep a clear conscience. Would that life were so simple.

Author Alan Furst gives an example from occupied France:

“That's always the question with underground work—how rough do you play the game? I knew a man a few years ago, a Russian, he'd been to some training school for the secret services and he told me that his instructor had played a sort of game with one of the students.

“He asked him, suppose your country had been suddenly occupied, you never expected any such thing but it has happened. Then, one after­noon your phone rings, it's a man you've seen now and again, not quite a friend, who says he's in your city for the day and needs a favor. It seems he has a heavy package, he can't carry it around from office to office, can he leave it with you? It's hard to say no, so you say yes.

“An hour later a man shows up at your door with a package—your friend couldn't come, so this man has agreed to deliver the package, he'll be back later to pick it up. You wait, and then, quite a bit later than you'd imagined, some­one else shows up and takes the package. Now you sense you've been drawn into some­one's secret operation.

“A week goes by, and here's your friend again, on the telephone. ‘Thank you for helping us,’ he says. Us? Which confirms what you feared—you've given them a hold over you. Now he needs one last favor, and makes it clear you don't have a choice, do it, or they'll give your name to the police. ‘I under­stand,’ your friend says, that you know X, and that the two of you have lunch now and then.’ How do they know that? ‘Why not make a lunch appointment with him? For next Monday, say, at one o'clock, at such-and-such a restaurant.’ It's only a lunch, so again you agree.

“Then, the morning before the lunch your friend calls and says, ‘You are meeting X at one. At one-twenty excuse your­self and go to the WC’ You follow orders, and the assassins arrive a few minutes later. You, and all the other customers, run like hell. From now on, you belong to them, who­ever they are.

“Or, take a different view. You refuse to accept the package and, that after­noon your friend is arrested, and shot. Well, you just avoided a serious problem. But you didn't. Because the occupier is now expelled from your country and, a week later, some­body shows up and says he's from some justice committee and you stand accused of causing the death of a patriot.”

It was quiet in the office, then Mathieu said, “Ghislain, are you suggesting that, some­time in the future, we will operate that way?”

“Tomorrow, no. But if the British lose this war, and there's some chance they might, we may become desperate, and desperation leads to actions described by the Soviet instructor” (47–48).

Since the movie is titled, “The Mule,” we figure Earl accepted the package with its consequences (“We own your ass, so don't do any­thing stupid or you disappear.”) But say he didn't bite. Shortly there­after the war on drugs is over and what's in that package becomes legal. With­out the black market uptick in price, there's no profit in moving it. The fore­closure on Earl's spread goes through, and he's unable to help his grand­daughter with her college expenses, or help any of his friends. Earl who is accustomed to being the provider (“I was on the road sixty hours a week to provide for this family”) is devastated. I'm not second guessing him one way or another, just saying he's in desperate straits and desperate men do desperate things. Just go with it; it's only a movie.

God's sentiments seem to be expressed in, (Psalm 127:1-3) “Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep. Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.” That psalm seemingly pictures some bloke who works as a carpenter during the day and a night watchman at night. He ain't getting any sleep and he's neglecting his children. God rates priorities differently.

Earl the day carpenter erected a fine hothouse for growing his flowers and Earl the vigilant driver goes all over the country without a ticket. But he neglects his family. Not God's plan. God, or factors beyond his control, intervene.

Note that his greenhouse at the beginning of the film has sides made of clear plastic to let in the sunshine (radiant heat) but keep the warm air from blowing out at night (through convection.) At the end of the film, though, he's tending some­one else's flowers in a large enclosure made of wire mesh. It lets in the radiant heat of the sun just fine, but it won't stop the warm air from blowing away at night. Lucky it seems to be in a warm clime where it doesn't matter.

If Earth is a greenhouse, then the transparent air lets in the sunshine during the day while gravity keeps the warm air from blowing out into space at night. That's using an actual green­house model. Earl's cool with that. When he gets some serious money, he trades in his old Ford pickup for a Mark LT (“New ride. Nice.”) He gives friendly maintenance tips to “Dykes on Bikes.” He helps a Negro change his tire by the side of the road. Earl is copacetic with the internal combustion engine. He hasn't fallen for the man-made climate change rhetoric, which uses a 19th century model of green­houses staying warm by reflecting back radiant heat at night. That's not how real ones work.

Production Values

” (2018) was directed by Clint Eastwood whom it also featured. It was written by Sam Dolnick who was inspired by the New York Times Magazine article, “The Sinaloa Cartel's 90-Year-Old Drug Mule,” by Nick Schenk. It stars Clint Eastwood, Bradley Cooper, and Taissa Farmiga. East­wood's Grandpa Earl is salt of the earth. His daughter Alison shows up in a visibly under­written role. Dianne Wiest was fine. There's good supporting work from Bradley Cooper and Michael Peña playing DEA agents hot on the trail of “Ta Ta” the drug mule. The acting isn't uniform, it starts out wooden so it takes a bit of time to get engulfed in the plot, and some­times it flags later on. Peña's parts are poorly written.

MPAA rated it R for language throughout and brief sexuality/nudity. The directing was fairly decent, all things considered. The greatest generation was courteous with­out using PC speech and was more concerned about a coming ice age than about global warming. (The science of green­houses is more properly covered in my review of “The Martian.” I only mention it here because Earl fit the mold of a climate change denier.)

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

I love Clint Eastwood's work, and I liked this one though it wasn't his best. It's kinda quaint, not heavy on violence despite the drift. The traveling music reflected a variety of what would be listened to on long hauls. The local scenery was compelling.

Movie Ratings

Action Factor: Weak action scenes. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Special effects: Average special effects. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day. Overall movie rating: Three stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

Furst, Alan. A Hero of France. New York: Random House, 2016. Print.