Not many Hollywood stars have had such an extensive career, both in front of and behind the camera, as actor and director Clint Eastwood. It’s hard to believe, but this man is still actively working on projects, even though his career already spans more than seven decades! Not particularly well-received as an actor when starting out in the 50s, Eastwood was initially criticized for the way that he talked through his teeth, which would later become a trademark of his performances.
Eastwood rose to fame through the success of the very popular ‘Spaghetti Westerns’ of the sixties as the ‘strong silent type,’ then took the director’s chair for the first time in 1971. His movies have evolved in tone and content throughout the years. His latest addition, ‘Cry Macho,’ adds to his growing catalog even as he edges towards a century on this earth, a period when many of his age mates would have been long retired.
This neo-western feature is directed by the legendary filmmaker, who is also the lead man of the film. ‘Cry Macho’ was adapted by Nick Schenk based on a novel of the same name written by the late N. Richard Nash in 1975. There have been attempts to turn the literary work into a screen version over the years which have been clouded by various delays over the years. Back in 2003, action veteran Arnold Schwarzenegger was cast for the movie. However, production was put on hold as the Austrian oak pursued his political aspirations instead becoming the governor of California. After his term ended, he was back in play in 2011. But, the production was canceled once more due to a scandal involving the star, and then it became a Roy Scheider vehicle before Eastwood later picked up the project in 2020. Interestingly the tome on which the movie is based actually became a novel after studios rejected it as a script. After several years of delay, the title finally saddled up to theatres and streaming simultaneously on the 17th of September 2021.
The title of this film when looked at literally definitely depicts a gut-punching, high-speed action thriller. However, it is quite the opposite, and at some point, it becomes a romantic comedy when the frail-looking Milo becomes a love magnet for widows in a new town. Audiences will spend the first 20 minutes of the film trying to figure out what it is. But one thing is quite evident; this feature has Clint’s trademarks written all of it. The director is quite fond of panoramic outdoor shots and sweeping landscapes, which are placed throughout this flick, from gorgeous western sunrises to beautiful desert plains and breathtaking establishing scenes.
Set in 1979, the narrative is quite straightforward. Texan rodeo star called Milo, played by Eastwood, whose wild career ended after suffering a terrible back injury, is not as famous as he used to be and is now a well-known horse breeder in the Wild West. After being shown the door at work, Mike is re-hired a year later by his former boss Howard Polk played by Dwight Yoakam, to journey to Mexico and kidnap his son Rafael embodied by new comer in the game Eduardo Minett. The latter is living with his hard-partying mother and Polk’s ex-wife Leta a mob boss played by Fernanda Urrejola. Signs of physical abuse on Rafael can be seen and the young lad has turned into a life of crime. His sole companion is a rooster he named Macho, with whom he constantly enrolls for the numerous street cockfights in his dilapidated town. Milo accepts the job because he owes an enormous debt to his former employer Polk, who bailed him out during hard times many years ago, and also because he likes children and animals. The old-timer gets to share his nuggets of wisdom with the youngster as they make their way back to Texas after sliding from his mother’s grip.
‘Cry Macho’ might not be the best movie the acclaimed director has ever made, there are tons of box office smashers under his belt for the many years he has been in the industry, but it explores another version of the director’s persona. Milo’s character is a bit laid down and more thoughtful, probably a wiser version of Clint’s iconic tough-guy stereotype from his past work. But still, he gives fans a few action sequences as while escaping his pursuers after kidnapping Rafael. He gets to throw a few punches and romances a lady; however, the aura and pace are more leisurely.
Just like one of his earlier titles, ‘Gran Torino,’ this movie circles around the unlikely bond forged between a young boy and a cranky old man. It’s supposed to teach about masculinity and the aspect of being tough or, rather, Macho as described during that era. What really makes this movie work though is its sentimentality. This Hollywood veteran has never shied away from making a male weepie, and his current age significantly comes into play in this feature.
The moral universe Eastwood is trying to cultivate with ‘Cry Macho’ is portrayed by the goodness that appears to come with age or rather as described by the kind-hearted widow who attracts the romantic eye of the aging Milo and wouldn’t take no for an answer when it comes to helping those in need. Her name is Marta, played by Natalie Traven, who believes rectitude comes after a great sacrifice. The scenes are beautifully shot, with each taking time to develop, and Milo gets the chance to pick up his past ruins for a more meaningful life as he helps the community and offers direction and advice to the young generation.
‘Cry Macho’ is a feature that feels a bit shaky in its plot, and its satisfaction will definitely vary from one person to the other. It gives audiences two versions of the ending. The first one is a bitter-sweet scenario, while the other edges towards either side of the two extremes. Still, for fans of this Hollywood big wig, it’s nice to see the superstar back on screen as it’s been 30 years since he starred in and directed a western at the same time.