They say that cowboys are a breed tougher than nails and as strong as steel but in Clint Eastwood‘s “Cry Macho,” he recasts the myth.
For a huge portion of his past, Mike Milo (Eastwood) would surely have agreed with a wink and a tip of his sweat-stained hat. He was once a hard-riding rodeo man who won more trophies, awards and ribbons than most people have teeth in their mouth.
The film’s cast also includes Dwight Yoakam, Daniel V. Graulau, Amber Lynn Ashley and relative newcomer Eduardo Minett.
Those days, however, are far behind Mike. As are many shattered bones, and too many years of pills and booze that broke him just as painfully as his spills. Even his horse training days are nothing but a memory.
Some people remember, though.
Howard (Yoakam) used to manage Mike in his bronc-busting days, and then helped keep him afloat after Mike’s wife and son were killed in a car accident. He remembers the man Mike used to be. He also remembers that Mike kinda owes him from those days gone by. So he doesn’t have any problem asking the old cowboy for a favor.
It seems Howard’s ex-wife fled to Mexico some six or seven years ago with their young son Rafa (Minett). Howard has heard that the boy is now being abused. And he wants him back.
That’s not necessarily the kind of job you’d send a guy Mike’s age off to do. But truth is, cowboys—even ancient cowboys—aren’t afraid of much in this jagged old world. So Mike packs up his truck and heads off south of the border.
What he finds there isn’t exactly what he expected. Howard’s ex has a great deal of sway with the local Federales, for example, not to mention some dedicated thugs on her payroll. She doesn’t want some ancient gringo taking anything of hers. And that includes Rafa, the now 13-year-old, who’s out bouncing around in illegal cock fights on the Mexican streets.
This simple job in Mexico just turned into a much tougher ride.
And Mike’s steely cowboy ways are feeling a little rusty.
Mike does what he considers to be the right thing several times in the course of his journey. He sets off to bring Rafa home because of a deep-rooted sense of responsibility to Howard, even though he doesn’t really like the smarmy side of the man much. He also steps up to protect Rafa at different points and forges a special kinship with the boy—even looking upon him with pride as the teen works hard at learning to ride and break a horse.
A Mexican woman named Marta offers kindness to Mike and Rafa when they’re down and out. And eventually the two guys are welcomed in as parts of her makeshift family (she has taken on responsibility for her daughter’s children after the young woman’s untimely death). In spite of himself, Mike begins to feel a lost sense of happiness while in a strange place because of a stranger’s kindness.
While the movie, which is also directed by Eastwood, is already mentioned as an Oscar contender, it could have been so much more. We only catch fleeting moments in Cry Macho of the lost opportunities at film-making. While there are hasty glimpses of wise life lessons and loving encouragements, they never fully take shape which is a great loss for viewers.
Instead, this film sports a script that’s sun-bleached and flavorless; its main star-power ingredient is a bit too far past his sell-by date; and the whole plate just feels … undercooked. Add in a heavy layer of foul language and you’ve got a less than palatable piece that’s a little tough to chew.
–Bob Hoose | PluggedIn