The Mule (15)

Clint Eastwood returns from behind the camera for the first time since 2012’s ‘Trouble With The Curve” (no, Me neither!) as an aged and startlingly-frail-looking master Horticulturalist who gets in way over his head (the clue is in the title) when the invention of the Internet causes him financial ruin.

What starts of as a light-hearted quasi-road trip film with numerous scenes of Ol’ Earl spending much of his time driving along, singing to the radio, stopping at roadside diners and helping out his fellow travellers, quickly descends into much darker territory as the stakes increase.

The real grit and savageness of the villains of the piece is left largely unexplored, leaving Clint largely free to coast along barely exceeding 55mph (as instructed) and this is reflected in the pacing and the story-telling.

All-in-all, a really enjoyable and frequently very funny film which could have been that much better had it had the cajones to be that little bit grittier.

Bradley Cooper, Michael Peña, Dianne Wiest, Taissa Farmiga, Clifton Collins Jr. and Andy Garcia all offer fine support in their limited screentime, but much like Clint – who is 89 this year – the film wants to spend more time on ageing, family, love, loss and redemption, than delivering a dark and dangerous product at the end of the journey.

A really enjoyable film which would be that much better if it could only decide which story it wanted to tell.

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