Clint Eastwood has long been notorious for rushing his actors through scenes and refusing to do second takes. In the past you might have noticed this in a few scenes, manifested in momentarily uneven acting, or say, an entire scene shot with an obviously fake baby, because Ol’ Clint refused to wait for the real one.
Fast forward to now and this tendency has evolved to the point that Eastwood’s latest movie, The Mule, feels almost entirely defined by its creator’s impatience — the cinematic equivalent of your grandpa weaving down the street hitting parked cars and garbage cans with his car while telling you to calm down because it’s fine, everything’s fine, wouldja stop worrying so damn much? The Mule has the broad strokes of a story and just sort of yadda yaddas every other detail like it’s late for supper. If the actors flub a line or a plot point seems incongruous, the movie speeds right along it like it didn’t happen. The upside is that it’s briskly paced.
Even the on-the-nose casting itself feels like the product of someone refusing to do a second draft. Michael Peña as a cop? Sure, why not? He’s the first actor you think of when you think “cop,” right? Andy Garcia as the heavy, the Mexican twins from Breaking Bad as henchmen, and Clifton Collins Jr. as the heavy’s duplicitous deputy? Of course! Hey, stop coming up with alternate suggestions, we got it, let’s shoot this thing already, time’s a-wastin’.
It should be said: this quality isn’t entirely uncharming.