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Laramie Movie Scope: The Mule

A different kind of redemption story

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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December 16, 2018 – Clint Eastwood plays a down-on-his-luck horticulturalist who is shunned by his own family because he has always put his work first. Facing foreclosure and financial ruin, he turns to crime, driving drugs around the country for a Mexican cartel.

When I saw the previews for this movie, I thought I knew what the story was going to be, but it surprised me. I thought it was going to be about a guy forced to spy on drug dealers by the police. Instead, it is a story about a man seeking redemption for his own past.

This movie, directed by Clint Eastwood, is based on a true story about Leo Sharp, a World War II veteran in his 80s who grew some of the best Day Lilies in the country, and also drove drugs for the Sinaloa Cartel. In the movie, Eastwood plays Earl Stone, a man who spent his life tending flowers at the expense of tending to his own family. Unable to adapt to the internet, he lost his flower business, and went to work as a drug mule.

In a flashback scene Stone is shown entertaining people at a flower convention, and missing out on his daughter's wedding at the same time. His daughter, Iris, is played by Eastwood's daughter, Alison Eastwood. He later causes a scene with his ex-wife Mary (Dianne Wiest of “Dan in Real Life”) at a reception.

When Stone starts making big money hauling drugs, he gets his property out of foreclosure, then gives $25,000 to the local Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter to fix their burned out building. He pays for his granddaughter's wedding reception and begins to spend more time with his family, who gradually begin to forgive him for his past behavior.

Stone is so successful hauling drugs for the Cartel, that a Cartel boss, Laton (Andy Garcia of “Ocean's Eleven”) flies him to Mexico to meet him in person. He gives special instructions to Stone's handler, Julio (Ignacio Serricchio) to let Stone handle deliveries in his own way. But trouble is brewing for Stone and the Cartel.

A parallel story has DEA agents, Colin Bates and Trevino (Bradley Cooper of “A Star is Born” and Michael Peña of “The Martian”) zeroing in on Stone, known to them only by his Cartel nickname, “Tata” (grandfather). The DEA and police both get close to Stone several times, but he keeps slipping through their nets, mostly because he doesn't look the part of a drug runner. There is a nice scene between Bates and Stone that takes place before Bates knows who Stone really is, and another good scene between the two later on.

There are changes afoot in the Cartel as well. A change in leadership results in a clampdown on Stone. He is told in the most brutal terms that he is to follow orders to the letter and stay on schedule from now on, or else. There comes a time, however, that Stone must choose to violate his instructions, and his schedule, for the sake of his family.

The performances of Eastwood and Wiest are very powerful, along with that of Taissa Farmiga (“The Nun”) who plays Ginny, Stone's granddaughter. There is some drama in this film, but mainly it is a story, and an effective one at that, about a man trying to redeem himself in the eyes of his family. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2018 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]