Clint Eastwood's newest film is insultingly unwatchable
As a critic, student of film, and - in the past - a filmmaker I always try to see a film entirely, to give it a chance to mull over its potential mistakes and redeem itself. After so much work and effort go into making films, I think it’s the least I can do to sit through the entire thing. However, occasionally, a film can be so insulting, lazy, and counterproductive that I have been incapable of finishing it. This is extremely rare for me, happening once every couple of years. Nevertheless, such a case of abandoning a film has reoccurred with Cry Macho (2021).
Cry Macho is the newest Clint Eastwood directed and starring film. We follow Mike (Eastwood) a forcefully retired Texan cowboy with a tragic past as a rodeo rider. When his old boss (Dwight Yoakam) comes to him asking him to go down to Mexico to bring his estranged son Rafo (Eduardo Minett), to the States, Mike agrees. However, once meeting Rafo in Mexico City the journey north turns complicated as various forces try and slow them down.
Eastwood is an admirable force in Hollywood in terms of his prolific career. The actor/director has been working continuously since the 1960s, delivering nearly annual films in the last decade alone. However, Eastwood has also been struggling to navigate a Hollywood that is more averse to his conservative political views; films like Dirty Harry (1971) would never be made today. Eastwood has somewhat been able to balance this fine line by focusing on patriotic stories of Americans such as American Sniper (2014) and Richard Jewell (2019). When training his particular perspective to Americans interacting with Mexicans in Cry Macho, he crosses the new acceptable boundaries.
Cry Macho reaches for the most stereotypical views of Mexican culture; all males are cartel-members or simply violent drunks; all women are overly sexualized and hysterical. What’s more, the image of an old white man crossing the border to “set things straight” is something I’m astounded studio executives didn’t see as problematic. This mindless perpetuation of racist and dangerous stereotypes of Mexicans is a trend we’ve been seeing in films such as Rambo: Last Blood (2019) and Bad Boys For Life (2020), which seem to take no particular issue at using their blockbuster size to perpetuate damaging rhetoric that is already being spouted by politicians to fatal effects.
However, I was able to sit through Rambo: The Last Blood and Bad Boys For Life for their entire duration. The biggest problem with Cry Macho is that it is a simply terrible and lazy movie (the other two at least had some action and humor to distract). The entire first scene is an impromptu speech with some of the most shameless exposition dumping I’ve seen in film. The motivation for Mike to go down to Mexico is so scantily worked on I thought at one point I was watching a satire. The script by Nick Schenk and the late N. Richard Nash (who also wrote the book that the film is based on), feels like the type of high school project you do the night before for a class you simply don’t care about. There is simply no interest by the filmmakers in this film or its story.
This lack of interest can even be seen in Eastwood’s direction. Eastwood has always been a productive and hands-off director, finishing ahead of schedule, and yet being incredibly efficient at getting the shots and content he needs. In Cry Macho he seems to be sleepwalking through his skillset. Scenes cut to black, as if transition shots or the ending of a sequence were simply never shot. Actors are horrendously directed, overacting in a way that even soap operas would want to tamp down. Most sad of all, child-actor Minett is completely abandoned to his own devices, so that he delivers a performance that not even Disney Channel would deem acceptable. Eastwood himself, in the lead role, seems bored and tired throughout the entire film.
In the end, Cry Macho proved to be unwatchable for me. After a while of wanting to unplug my TV, I skipped to the end of the film to see if truly anything had changed, but it follows a predictable and cringey ending. The blind racist stereotypes, lazy script, and dreadful direction add up for a film that offers nothing except wasting your time.