Cry Macho (2021)
PG-13. This is the stuff that Clint Eastwood lives off of. It's that smoothed over rebelliousness that Boomers consider to be hardcore and edgy. There's a lot of low-key language. But the movie also kind of glosses over the notion that cock-fighting is not okay. Couple this with violence and sex out of wedlock, there's some stuff that gives the film a well-deserved PG-13 rating.
DIRECTOR: Clint Eastwood
I haven't been in this position in a long time. Since starting the blog, there's been this need to watch film with structure and purpose. I watch these movies knowing that I'm going to write with criticism. As such, I never want to bow out of a movie that I started. My thought process is that, even if the movie is godawful, at least it is easy to write about a bad movie. Now, my mentality about this HBOMax direct release model has been one of watching everything that would have been released in theaters. When I saw that Cry Macho, a Clint Eastwood movie, would be on this list, I knew that I had to watch it. But we just haven't been in the mood until I saw that my time to watch the movie was running out. It was the night before it disappeared from HBOMax that I started watching it...
...and I almost didn't finish it. It's not like the movie was so bad that I had to stop. It's just that the movie wasn't grabbing my wife's attention, despite my probing commentary. She just found the movie dull. And when she said that she found that the movie was dull, I had to agree. Now, I don't mind boring movies. I actually do really well with boring movies. But those boring movies always compensate with something of value. Cry Macho is just...boring. It's not like nothing happens in the movie. There's a plot that I very well could summarize. It's just that this is one of those movies that aggressively ticks the formula boxes pretty well. It's actually kind of shocking that this is based on a novel and what might actually be considered a moderately respected novel. But there's nothing really all that special about Cry Macho. It's the bonding story that we see over and over again. I hate that I already threw the word "Boomer" around, but it seems like it is a bit of "Boomer Bait", like Gran Torino. This is what a percentage of the population views cinema to be.
The thing is, now I have to re-evaluate what I think about Clint Eastwood. People lost their minds over Million Dollar Baby. I thought it was fine. But I didn't really consider Eastwood to be this prolific director until Flags of our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima. I remember when I saw the name Clint Eastwood attached to a directing credit, it was going to be something special. But the last handful of Clint Eastwood movies have been borderline box office failures. And it wasn't like Cry Macho was aggressive with its Republican values. I was going to chalk up his change in quality to his appearance at the Republican National Convention and the fact that he's been celebrating Americana and the American Hero in many of his movies. Now, I'm fairly certain that Clint Eastwood has been the Hollywood face of Republican cinema since before Million Dollar Baby. After all, Dirty Harry carrying that Magnum and taking the law into his own hands is the gun-owner's fantasy personified. So what happened to Clint Eastwood?
Someone told me that Clint Eastwood only did one take. He refused to do multiple takes on films because he always was convinced that he had it. Sometimes, I can see this confidence really paying off. But imagine applying that attitude to every element of the film. What if it wasn't just about performance, but it went down to the edit bay? Everything in this movie feels like a bunch of ingredients thrown into a pot with the hopes of making a soup, but there's no sense of measurement or care put to it. The story of Mike and Rafo, while played out, is something that should be watchable. Well, more watchable. I'm making this movie seem like an abomination when it is just boring. Clint Eastwood's Mike is just his other characters as a 91-year-old. I know that Eastwood has always been that character actor who embraces his Hollywood persona. But Mike's choices in the film are darned weird at times. He goes to Mexico to collect Rafo only to throw him out of the car.
The movie is supposed to be about Mike's character change from broken man into vicarious father, finding love with a woman that he meets in Mexico. Okay, that's understandable. But we never really get to see Mike broken. We're told at the beginning that Mike lost his family in a car accident and that he's been spiraling into booze and self-loathing. It was Howard who pulled him out. But we don't ever really see Mike in that broken state. Instead, we see confident Clint Eastwood go out and get Rafo and then we see confident Clint Eastwood hang out in a small Mexican village with Rafo. And then we see confident Clint Eastwood curse at a bunch of policemen (why is this scene in the movie? I know why. It's false tension because the concept of the film is absolutely silly.) The movie tells us that there is a transition from pain to purpose. But we never actually experience that pain or that purpose. Really, the movie simply allows time to have these two together long enough to feel like a bond has been made. Rafo never really has that growing pains moment. If anything, this rebellious teenager who is running away from his mother and scamming this gringo is too accommodating.
Because we never see or feel those moments, the movie really comes down to an old man hanging out with a kid. Sometimes they fight, but those fights don't have any consequences. Sometimes, those fights come out of nowhere, making it hard to empathize with the character who is emoting. Rafo's criticisms of Mike don't make a lick of sense. To give Eastwood credit, Rafo's frustration lies in the fact that he's a teenager who is dealing with rejection from his father, not the notion that Mike lied to him. But Rafo has this criticism of Mike at the end, swearing that Mike lied to him. Mike tells him in a fairly honest manner. There was nothing really holding him to telling the truth about Rafo's father, but he does tell him anyway. There's a respect there, so to build tension out of this moment kind of lets the emotional core slip away far too easily. Again, this is all chalked up to shoddy work on the moment-to-moment stuff. Maybe a movie shouldn't be one take. The failures of Cry Macho might be a cloister bell to the importance of nuance. We're told that we should feel that bond, but that bond is completely artificial and is built on the notion that these two are in the proximity of each other for a decent amount of time. That's it.
I'm kind of impressed that the movie leaves Rafo with his father. Perhaps the narrative is stating that Rafo isn't a child anymore and it is inconsequential that his father's kind of awful. It might be about his need to get to America and to define himself (which doesn't seem very Republican at all, until I realize that Eastwood was married to a woman from Mexico for a good period of time). His choice to embrace his father's offer is really an interesting one, considering that the movie telegraphs that Mike is Rafo's emotional father. But that doesn't a good movie make. It just leaves me with a non-formulaic ending that I can lightly applaud. I mean, I'm glad I finished the movie. It would have meant that I had a movie that I had only half-watched. That doesn't make me feel good. But, no, you don't need to run out and watch Cry Macho.
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Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.