Author Archives: dangent280

Film Review: The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

“Emmet, You’ve Gotta Stop Pretending Everything Is Awesome. It Isn’t…”

When it comes to 2014’s The Lego Movie, it is fair to say in retrospect that everything and everyone involved with such a movie was indeed particularly awesome, with my own personal view at the time of its’ initial release verging more on the side of caution when contemplating a feature length movie based upon those tiny multi coloured blocks that really hurt your feet when accidentally stepped upon. With the movie blossoming from the much welcome mix of critical and financial success therefore, including the added impotence of journeys into the realm of equally successful spin-offs, including the ridiculously entertaining, The Lego Batman Movie, which remains my personal of the series so far, here we are again with The Lego Movie 2, the inevitable animated sequel which sees Phil Lord and Christopher Miller drop from directorial duties as they boast both a production role and a screenplay for Trolls and Shrek Forever After director, Mike Mitchell, to work around. With the first film famously featuring a central twist in which we see that the lives of our yellow faced friends are actually being controlled by the hands of Will Ferrell and his playful son, The Lego Movie 2 takes matters a step forward as we see the young sister of the family now being allowed to play with the seemingly endless pool of Lego, resulting in Chris Pratt’s (Avengers: Infinity War) Emmett being heart and centre of a series of utmost destruction which turns his world into a post-apocalyptic, Mad Max inspired war zone.

With Emmett attempting to remain as the same old, happy-go-lucky everyman amidst a wasteland of negativity, he is soon called into action after Elizabeth Banks’ (Power Rangers) Lucy is kidnapped alongside a group of fellow heroes in order to satisfy the ambiguous wishes of Tiffany Haddish’s (Night School) Queen Watevra Wa-Nabi, the shape-shifting ruler of the wonderfully named, Systar System. Sounds bonkers right? And The Lego Movie 2 is just that, a bizarre but highly comical animated adventure which successfully manages to balance the right amount of cinematic appeal to both older and younger audiences, with the colourful, playfulness of the visuals and the smirk-inducing slapstick guaranteed to keep the children in the audience entertained, whilst the array of constantly smart and well-timed comedic gags and slight, off-hand knowing film geek references, including digs at particular film franchises and comic book heroes, are worked effectively into the narrative in order to make the more mature audience member giggle with glee. Whilst the film does struggle to contain the steady hit-rate of comedy throughout its’ slightly misjudged one hundred minute runtime, a weakness which also affects the pacing of the piece, particularly around the halfway mark, The Lego Movie 2 is a worthy successor to a movie which I can admit to being wrong about first time around, albeit one which fails to land the same kind of punches The Lego Batman Movie managed to do. Maybe more Batman next time. You can never have too much Batman.

Overall Score: 7/10

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Film Review: Alita: Battle Angel

“I’d Do Whatever I Had To For You. I’d Give You Whatever I Have. I’d Give You My Heart…”

Reportedly placed on the indefinite James Cameron waiting list after his determination to focus on the long awaited Avatar sequels instead, Alita: Battle Angel sees the American pass the bulk of the buck down to Robert Rodriguez (Sin City, Spy Kids) who directs and brings to life the world of Yukito Kishiro’s famous manga series of the same name first published in the early 1990’s. Utilising a screenplay formed by both Cameron and Avatar colleague. Jon Landau, Rodriguez’s blockbuster combines a familiar steampunk, action-based sensibility with adventurous and top notch special effects for a movie which sees Rose Salazar (Maze Runner: The Death Cure) as the titular cyborg who is located by Christoph Waltz’s (Django Unchained) Dr. Dyson Ido within a junkyard pile dumped in the heart of the aptly named Iron City. After repairing both her body and mind, Alita seeks to understand her ambiguous past and purpose amidst the threat of warring hierarchies, murderous contract killers and the sudden discovery of both love and friendship, all under the watchful eye of Ido who seems to be hiding a much greater understanding of Alita’s secretive origins than one might expect. By seemingly gluing together an array of familiar famous movies which occupy the same genre space, Alita is a functional if wildly underwhelming cinematic experience which not only seems rather inconsistent and messy from a narrative point of view, but ultimately makes you wonder what could have been if Cameron was able to direct in the first place.

Between the combination of Rodriguez and Cameron, whose reluctance to direct allows him the freedom of a highly influential production credit, it is clear to see that the main goal of Alita is to create a living, breathing and spectacularly cinematic fictional world, one filled with clear nods to Blade Runner and every single neo-noir futureworld since Ridley Scott changed the face of science fiction forever, and with the aid of simply brilliant digital effects and production design, they do manage to effectively pull it off, particularly in the case of the central character of Alita who although heavily falls under the bracket of the uncanny valley, is simply incredible to behold, with Salazar’s performance effectively managing to come across a really interesting and engaging leading heroine. With wasted performances from many of the film’s pedigree cast however, with the likes of Mahershala Ali (Green Book) and Jennifer Connelly (Only the Brave) struggling to give depth to their equally one-dimensional and overly forgettable characters, and a scattershot array of endless plot threads which not only become overly confusing but seem to live up to Rodriguez’s claims that the film would push an extensive catalogue of the original manga all into one, such decisions ultimately weaken the final product as a whole, resulting in Alita becoming yet another frustrating example of wasted potential, and for a movie which is clearly seen as the start point of a whole new science fiction franchise, seems to be going absolutely nowhere, continuing a common trend of movies in the ilk of The Mummy and Mortal Engines by being films which dream big, but are ultimately let down by failing to address successfully the first hurdle which comes their way.

Overall Score: 5/10

Film Review: How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

“I Am Who I Am Today Because Of You…”

Whilst it may be slightly harsh walking into a concluding chapter of a franchise after failing to see the previous two entries, my own personal admission as a failure of film criticism due to somehow missing the critically acclaimed opening chapter’s before heading into How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World was aptly fixed with a quick Wikipedia search and a clear confirmation that dragons had indeed been trained effectively and that there really wasn’t that much to catch up on. Directed and written once again by Canadian filmmaker, Dean DeBlois, whose continued service throughout the franchise has indeed placed him in good stead in the land of DreamWorks animation, The Hidden World reunites the merry band of heroic and dragon loving Vikings as they continue their fight in attempting to rescue as many captured flying beasts as humanly possible from the grasps of the insidious and cold hearted dragon hunters. Led by the good natured figure of Hiccup and his dedicated flying follower, Toothless, the loss of his father in the previous installment still fleetingly haunts the young leader, resulting him in remembering the myth of “The Hidden World”, a utopian world for dragon kind which Hiccup attempts to locate in order to not only save his own race, but his ever expanding race of flying friends who continue to overpopulate his land.

For someone entering the movie with only a faint knowledge of the characters and the overarching set up from the past two installments, it is undoubtedly to The Hidden World’s credit that even with only ten minutes into the action, the characterisation of each of the primary players within the narrative is very much easy to establish, and whilst the pacing does take a good while to fully get going into second year, there is a clear commitment from the filmmakers that the movie is very much a solidified end point to the franchise, with a central screenplay which pretty much relies on a whole lot of filler, albeit interesting filler, before getting to the inevitable conclusion. Whilst there are elements of weariness throughout the one hundred minute runtime, the simply gorgeous animation means that when you do become slightly disconnected from the narrative, the design of the movie is so staggeringly wonderful that you take the time instead to inspect every single frame of the picture and oggle at its’ technical brilliance, with shots of soaring horizons, spectacular armies upon both land and sea, and of course, the sight of hundred upon hundreds of dragons taking to the skies really magnificent to behold. With an array of superb voice acting talent, with F. Murray Abraham (The Grand Budapest Hotel) as Grimmel the Grisly the standout performance, and a final act which even made this cold hearted cinephile wipe away a flu induced tear, The Hidden World may not be as amazing as it might have been with the added involvement I may have got from a complete dedication to the series, but it is indeed a movie which has more than enough to sustain an interest for both children and adults as it rounds off in a rather pleasant manner indeed.

Overall Score: 6/10

Film Review: Velvet Buzzsaw

“You Ever Notice Anything About This Painting? If You Look At It Long Enough, It Moves…”

Ever since Jake Gyllenhaal (Nocturnal Animals) and Dan Gilroy combined back in 2014 to create one of the most compelling and cinematic contemporary thrillers in the form of Nightcrawler, the knowledge that both would reunite once again upon the Netflix format seemed apt considering the streaming company’s pedigree for allowing particular directors to drop their hands into an endless pot of money and do pretty much whatever they want in return for complete release rights. Moving away from the world of drama for the time being after the middling success of last year’s Roman J. Israel, Esq., Gilroy’s latest in the form of Velvet Buzzsaw sees the American go full on B-Movie silliness which just happens to have a top of the line A-star cast. Led once again by the enviable talents of Gyllenhaal, Gilroy’s latest sees the American as a dedicated, if slightly exaggerated, art critic, who after the discovery of a never before seen body of work by a deceased, isolated hermit by the name of Ventril Dease, soon becomes obsessed with the idea that his paintings are somehow responsible for a strange series of accident related deaths and sudden unexplained disappearances.

With the likes of Nightcrawler managing to balance just right the tonal balance between jet black comedy and full on dramatic seriousness, Velvet Buzzsaw suffers primarily from never really managing to settle on such a healthy synchronisation, with Gilroy’s latest not ripe enough to to be placed in the realm of full on, exploitation greatness, with an element of horror which never at all comes across as either faintly scary or tense, and likewise, never really manages to grasp a serious approach either, resulting in a strange blend of the stylish perfection of something like Nocturnal Animals and the goofiness of Ghostbusters, just without managing to secure the sheer brilliance of either. With an underlying notion riding through the screenplay regarding a seemingly personal led attack stemmed from the mind of Gilroy and his personal feelings regarding either the shallowness of the art world or the uptight nature of criticism in any shape or form, Velvet Buzzsaw almost seems too shy to fully explore its’ genre conventions, with the camera always peering away from death scenes and victims of murder, resulting in an underlying feeling that maybe the editor just felt a bit too twitchy showing the likes of Gyllenhaal come face to face with his inevitable fate. Whilst it is always entertaining to witness top level actors completely take to the silliness of a screenplay like Gilroy’s with open arms and complete dedication, it comes as a slight shame that pretty much every single leading character within the drama is ultimately an absolute stinking moron with ponciness to burn, and whilst Velvet Buzzsaw doesn’t even scratch the surface of the best that Gilroy can offer, Netflix’s latest big name capture is silly, messy fun but not in any way memorable.

Overall Score: 6/10

TV Review: True Detective – Series Three Episode Five “If You Have Ghosts”

“Tell Him To Leave Me Alone. I Know What He Did. That Man Pretending To Be My Father…”

After commenting this time last week on a distinct lack of standout action set pieces within a series renowned for breaking the rules of what is allowed upon the small screen, this week’s episode of True Detective was undoubtedly the most proactive and efficient hour of storytelling since the opening episode, blending together a narratively crucial and well executed resolution to last week’s cliffhanger and playing its’ hand in terms of answers to the widening array of key questions much quicker than before. Concluding tantalisingly with the prospect of a full blown massacre last week, the attack on the Woodard household not only ended in exactly that, resulting in the death of not only his attackers, but police officers too, but also put to bed the question of the original conviction regarding the Purcell case, with key evidence including burnt clothing and one of the missing children’s backpack being conveniently found in the household of a now dead but understandably suspicious leading suspect. With the 80’s timeline of the narrative strictly limited to the Woodard set piece, the majority of the action this time around once again lands deep in the 90’s timeline, with the hunt for the missing Purcell girl well and truly afoot, resulting in the continuation of the clash of heads between Hays and West who seem to have their own individual notions of how most effectively to deal with the biggest puzzle piece so far. With Tom caught up to speed in the doings of his once presumed dead daughter, her potential involvement within a “family” of runaways and continued search for her missing brother results in a live witness appeal, a particularly interesting scene which brings to light the strong sense of bad blood from many regarding the original case, with the conviction of Woodard seeming considerably rushed and overly fraudulent.

With discoveries of missing evidence, the complete lack of basic forensic awareness and the potential planting of key items at the original crime scene, 90’s Hays too begins to wonder whether the death and subsequent conviction of Woodard felt perhaps too timely and ideal for the true murderer who potentially may have had all the time in the world to dispose of crucial evidence, and with a strange, oddball question regarding the disappearance of a local detective at the time of the second investigation, does the confliction raging inside Hays point towards something much more disturbing than one might originally believe? With his absolute refusal to speak about the case outside of the confines of work, an awkward dinner conversation seemed to hark back to the first date between Hays and Amelia by showing how far and how disillusioned the couple have become due to just one case, and whilst it has always seemed that Amelia’s eagerness for the finer details regarding the Purcell investigation has always seemed to be her own way of dealing with the trauma, this week seemed to offer up a darker, seedier alternative regarding her true motives surround both Hays and the Purcell’s. With this seed firmly planted, the heartwarming reunion of the now aged pairing of Hays and West was hampered by Hays’ memory regarding the pair’s last meeting, and with the death of Amelia as far as I’m aware not exactly being cleared up completely, this week’s episode of True Detective thoroughly enjoyed being able to tease and play with an audience which was once again treated to a riveting and thoroughly entertaining hour of damn good television.

Overall Episode Score: 9/10

Film Review: Burning

“There Is No Right Or Wrong. Just The Morals Of Nature…”

Presenting itself as arguably one of the more difficult movies to seek out throughout the year thus far due to a disgracefully minimal big screen release, Burning, the latest from acclaimed South Korean director, Lee Chang-dong, is undoubtedly the type of movie worth travelling that extra few miles for in order to behold and breathe in. Based on the story, “Barn Burning” published in 1992 by Japanese author, Haruki Murakami, Chang-dong’s movie is a tense, taut and superbly crafted psychological thriller which sees Yoo Ah-in as Lee Jong-su, a rather reserved and emotionally conflicted package courier who amidst dealing with his father’s newly found criminal exploits, begins to form a relationship with Jeon Jong-seo’s Shin Hae-mi, a former childhood neighbour and school acquaintance who on first glance, Lee fails to recognise due to Hae-mi’s admittance at undergoing plastic surgery in order to appear more attractive to the male gaze. As the relationship between the two begins to blossom, to the extent that Lee is left with the responsibility of caring for Hae-mi’s rather unsociable feline friend as she disappears on a trip to Africa, her return from her spiritual adventure sees her arrive back with Steven Yeun’s (The Walking Dead) Ben, a handsome, rich figure of ambiguity who soon begins to drive a creep-sized wedge between Hae-mi and Lee’s relationship, much to the jealous and judgemental eye of the former who begins to suspect that Ben’s secretive demeanour is much more dangerous than his charming sensibility makes out.

Whilst the clearest narrative connections at the heart of Burning immediately point to the works of Hitchcock, with the notion of the uncertain outsider within cinema always harking back to the likes of A Shadow of a Doubt, the near two and a half hour runtime clearly emphasises Chang-dong’s philosophy that amidst the central story, the tone and feel of the movie is as equally important, if not more so. With an abundance of interesting character development which manages to clearly identify each of the very different triage of leading characters, the atmosphere which idles in the background of the movie as the drama develops oodles with a subversive sense of strangeness, with you never really sure whether certain behavioural oddities or baffling character interactions are meant to be taken literally, as a deft aside or part of a wider mystery. With a very minimal reliance on musical accompaniments and the strange, ever-shifting colours of Hong Kyung-pyo’s cinematography in which the movie seems to traverse through from the urban brightness of daytime South Korea to the Nordic Noir feel of night, Burning’s clearest elemental ideas regarding the aspect of loneliness, longing and jealousy are all actively heightened with an alarming slow-burn nature, resulting in a final act which seems to take pleasure in failing to offer the audience a crowd-pleasingly satisfying, well rounded resolution, instead actively encouraging audiences to make up their own minds just like a huge percentage of the the most impactful and memorable chillers always manage to do. Add into the mix a hallucinatory dance sequence which clearly evoked the works of David Lynch and an underlying comment on the societal state of North Korea, Burning is an endlessly compelling thriller with style to burn and still has me dissecting certain elements in order to figure out exactly what it all meant. Crucial viewing.

Overall Score: 8/10

Film Review: Can You Ever Forgive Me?

“You Can Be An Asshole If You’re Famous. You Can’t Be Unknown And Be Such A Bitch, Lee…”

With Melissa McCarthy always succeeding in managing to send a particularly large and unwelcome chill down the length of my back each and every time I see her name plastered across a new cinematic release, the early murmurings of a movie which not only featured McCarthy taking on something different to her normal adolescent, awfully timed comedic nightmares, but one in which the American was actually rather splendid too, immediately raised my film reviewing eyebrows in the hope of something majestic, even if a slight whiff of trepidation remained due to the almost painful recollection of her involvement in 2018’s worst film by quite a considerable distance, The Happytime Murders. Based on the controversial figure of American author, Lee Israel, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, the latest from U.S based filmmaker, Marielle Heller, whose best known work includes Transparent and The Diary of a Teenage Girl, does indeed take full advantage of the best on-screen features which McCarthy has to offer, with Heller’s movie supplying the actress with a role in which she undoubtedly sinks her teeth into, even within the confines of a central narrative which does annoyingly fail to ever secure adequate lift off, but with a clear sense of acting dedication and a faintly interesting premise, McCarthy’s latest is indeed a step in the right direction, albeit one which doesn’t exactly hold a torch to the rather bemusing critical acclaim which has been showered upon it.

Highlighting from the outset the rather depressive, downbeat sensibility of McCarthy’s Israel, the movie opens after her brief success in the world of writing due to her well received biography of Estée Lauder and her attempts to reignite such attention by conducting research for a novel based around the life of Fanny Brice. Living in a dingy, unkempt one bedroom apartment with only her unwell feline friend to keep her company, Israel suddenly falls upon a letter bearing the writing of Brice herself, only to discover that the world of fraudulently constructed letters from the pen name of dead famous authors actually pays significantly well, a notion seen as the ultimate cure for her less than graceful financial and personal situation. Aided by the HIV ridden, crafty, streetwise hand of local drug dealer, Jack Hock, played in outrageously entertaining form by the now Oscar nominated, Richard E. Grant (Logan) the pair soon begin a successful partnership within the fraud business as they make their way around the local area in order to pawn off as many convincing letters as humanly possible. With a familiar rise and fall narrative regarding the discovery and punishment of criminal undertakings, the most effective element of Heller’s movie is undoubtedly the central relationship between Hock and Israel, with both parties managing to balance each other out in the category of total societal retrogrades, whilst the swift back and forth quip-laden interchanges are both smart and excellently directed. However, with Grant bringing charm to burn, the focus on McCarthy ultimately results in no sympathetic link whatsoever, resulting in actions and consequences which are observed but never really fully engaged upon, and with strange narrative asides which go absolutely nowhere come the credits screen, Can You Ever Forgive Me? is the type of independant release which could have been better served with both a better editor and an extra slice of flash to at least living things up, resulting in Heller’s movie falling into the category of interesting, but not exactly memorable.

Overall Score: 6/10 

Film Review: Escape Room

“You Wanna Control Your Life. But Life Isn’t A Science Experiment…”

With the beginning of 2019 primarily loaded with non-fictional dramatic adaptations and Oscar bait, the chance to take a reasonable comfort break from reality and back into the realm of mindless fictional horror comes around this week in the form of Escape Room, a strange oddity of a film which attempts to blend a whole catalogue of inspirations for a cinematic cocktail which seems neither good or awful, instead falling into that forgettable pot of big screen mediocrity which many horror pictures can unfortunately succumb to. Directed by horror genre stalwart, Adam Robitel, whose previous credits include the likes of Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension and Insidious: The Last Key, Escape Room states to have a screenplay from the minds of both Bragi F. Schut and Maria Melnik, but with so many glaring cliches at the heart of the action, one could argue that any cinephile with a faint knowledge of horror could have supplied the script at the heart of a film which somewhat revels knowingly at the fact that every single narrative turn seems to feature one cinematic rip off after cinematic rip off, and whilst Escape Room clearly fails to bring anything fresh or original to the genre in which it sits, Robitel’s latest is still a functional and partially entertaining high concept B-Movie with enough lavish silliness to make you just laugh at the absurdity of it all.

Amidst the tick list of the many cinematic “inspirations” present within the narrative, Escape Room comes across as a oddball hybrid of Saw, Hellraiser and the morbidly overlooked Cube, just without the jaw-dropping exploitation violence which made each so memorable first time around. Beginning by placing all the chess pieces into position as we our introduced to an array of underwhelming and underdeveloped lead characters, the action predominantly follows Taylor Russell’s (Lost in Space) Zoey, a timid and whispering scientific genius who after receiving a strange, indecipherable lock box, takes up the opportunity from the shadowy “Gamemaster” to solve his own personal “Escape Room” and the chance of winning ten thousand dollars. Cue absolutely ridiculous and impractical escape scenarios, shouty, swearing, panicky characters and of course, cringe inducing dialogue which includes each and every character reading out even the most minor part of the plot in case the audience member at the back of the screening just happened to miss it, Escape Room seems to revel in its’ unashamedly low budget nature, resulting in a sense that although the many weaknesses are as clear as day, the more silly the narrative gets, the more downright enjoyable the action ultimately becomes. With Deborah Ann Woll undoubtedly supplying the best performance of the bunch, continuing her excellent dramatic chops seen most clearly in Netflix’s Daredevil, Escape Room is an utter shambles and a complete mess, but with enough standout ripeness and a more than favourable runtime, Robitel’s latest is actually quite fun and at least made me leave the cinema with a questionable smirk.

Overall Score: 5/10

Film Review: Green Book

“You Never Win With Violence. You Only Win When You Maintain Your Dignity…”

Arriving in the United Kingdom just in time for the Academy Awards later in the month, the multi nominated drama, Green Book, comes forth with an abundance of critical pleasantries and expectation that amongst the likes of A Star is Born and Roma, the small, independent latest from the director of Shallow Hal and erm, Dumb and Dumber To may pip such works of excellence to the post of walking away with Best Picture. Based on the true life relationship between African-American jazz pianist, Don Shirley, and the Italian-American streetwise bouncer, Tony Vallelonga, Green Book is a quaint, engaging and highly entertaining dramatic crowd-pleaser which floats gently across the line between saccharin and sweet as it blends together two opposing figures of 1960’s America with enough charm and interesting underlying subplots to gloss over a story which many audiences have already seen before. With many declaring Green Book as essentially a contemporary adaptation of Driving Miss Daisy, albeit with a particular twist regarding the ethnicity of both driver and passenger, Peter Farrelly’s latest shines brightest when left in the company of the film’s leading stars, with both Viggo Mortensen (A History of Violence) and Mahershala Ali (Moonlight) both providing stand out performances worthy of their recognition from this year’s Oscars, and whilst Green Book as a whole fails to match the excellence of its’ brothers in the field of Best Picture, the particular parts which do happen to shine brightest are indeed worthy of taking the time to seek out and admire.

With the movie opening with Mortensen’s Vallelonga, the work dependant, cocky hustler burdened with the apt nickname of “Tony Lip” due to his almost joyous penchant for saying things as he sees them, the screenplay concocted from a combination of Farrelly, Brian Currie and Tony’s son, Nick Vallelonga, allows the first act of the movie to swiftly play out with a fun sense of purpose as we bear witness to Tony’s alarming appetite for food, his ever-expanding family and his reluctant on-off relationship with the local crime gangs. Seeking gainful employment after being predisposed from his work as a bouncer, Tony falls upon the graces of Ali’s Don Shirley, a majestically cultured and wonderfully talented pianist who enlists the services of Tony as he makes his way into the deep South in order to fulfill his promise of a musical tour. As the screenplay moves into an almost road movie-esque sensibility, it is here where the comedic element of Farrelly really shines, with gorgeous interplay between both Tony and Shirley resulting in some genuinely memorable and laugh-out loud set pieces as we gradually see the differences between both both come together in a clear synchronisation of loving friendship. Whilst the clear racial undertones of the piece begin interesting and poignant, the repetitive nature of such a notion does become slightly tiresome come the end, with Green Book undoubtedly the type of movie where the nuanced approach fits the mood of the piece better than the show-stopping, award seeking monologues which the trailers are filled with, but with two really superb central performances from reliable and watchable actors with a clear admiration for the script, Green Book is a really heartwarming slice of drama, just served with extra cheese.

Overall Score: 7/10

Film Review: The Mule

“I Thought It Was More Important To Be Somebody Out There Than The Failure I Was In My Own Home…”

Whilst it is always harsh to judge a filmmaker with as much pedigree as Clint Eastwood on just one movie within a career which has spanned more than half a century, the rather strange and bewildering blandness of The 15:17 to Paris last year painted a dark blot on the back catalogue of the Hollywood legend to such an extent that the release of The Mule seems to have come around somewhat without an inch of hype or expectation. Returning to the world of acting for the first time since 2014, Eastwood balances the starring role alongside his duties as director for a movie which seems to be his The Old Man and the Gun or Phantom Thread, with Eastwood, who now at the tender age of 88, potentially finding the perfect time to call this old filmmaking malarky to a close. Based on Sam Dolnick’s New York Times article, “The Sinaloa Cartel’s 90-Year-Old Drug Mule”, an account on the latter life of Leo Sharp, a World War II veteran who ran drugs throughout the USA on behalf of the Sinaloa Cartel, The Mule sees Eastwood as Earl Stone, a work consumed elderly horticulturist whose loss of business results in him resorting to working under the wing of Andy Garcia’s (Ocean’s Eleven) cartel boss, a decision which quickly burdens Stone with the reputation as the most reliable, if slightly oddball, drug mule in the business.

Featuring a screenplay from Nick Schenk, the award winning writer behind Gran Torino and The Judge, Eastwood’s latest is a surprisingly low-key, thoughtful and rather traditional affair, a movie which although suffers from being rather repetitive and ridiculously predictable, benefits from a genuine sense of warmness, an element personified by seeing the aged Eastwood completely embrace and have bundles of fun with a role which without the American’s gargantuan impact on the world of cinema, may not have made it onto the big screen in the first place. With the criminal element of the narrative particularly straightforward to follow from the outset, the paint-by-numbers unravelling of the plot is knowingly cliched, with the most interesting part of the movie undoubtedly the character of Stone himself, with Schenk’s screenplay working best in scenes where we see Stone rebuild his local community with funds raised from his illegal pastimes and the elongated trials and tribulations faced from his family, with supporting roles from the likes of the excellent Dianne Wiest (Edward Scissorhands) adding to the overarching charmful tone which the movie exhales. Whilst bold attempts at building narrative tangents such as the inclusion of strange criminal back stabbings are indeed wholly superficial, the clearest weakness of the film is the wasted involvement of anyone connected to the law enforcement, with the likes of Bradley Cooper (A Star is Born) and Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix) not exactly being given the time or the material to offer the type of performances both are renowned for, but with a sense of technical reliability which comes with most things associated with Eastwood, The Mule won’t set the world alight, but much like its’ titular anti-hero, is a movie which drives from point A to B in good time without alarming anyone along the way.

Overall Score: 6/10