Clint Eastwood’s CRY MACHO

I reviewed Clint Eastwood’s CRY MACHO for Cinefile Chicago:

Clint Eastwood’s CRY MACHO (US)

The Logan Theatre and Various Multiplexes – Check Venue websites for showtimes

If RICHARD JEWELL (2019) was Clint Eastwood’s FRENZY—a dark, angry movie that revisited some of the director’s pet themes in a more disturbing fashion than ever before—then CRY MACHO is his FAMILY PLOT—a surprisingly sweet and gentle about-face that feels like a career summation while showing the old master has a few new tricks up his sleeve. Like MILLION DOLLAR BABY (2004) and GRAN TORINO (2008), CRY MACHO tells the story of an older man haunted by his past who finds redemption in becoming a surrogate father to a wounded younger person. The relationship unfolds on a picaresque road trip similar to the ones in BRONCO BILLY (1980), HONKYTONK MAN (1982) and THE MULE (2018), and Eastwood also throws in a cross-generational romance (a la BREEZY [1973] and THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY [1995]) for good measure. Most of all, CRY MACHO is quintessentially Eastwoodian for how the filmmaker finds new ways to interrogate and subvert his own macho persona as an actor, even though (or perhaps precisely because) he was a physically frail 90-year-old at the time it was shot. Jonathan Rosenbaum once balked at the reception of Manoel de Oliveira’s CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS – THE ENIGMA (2007) because he was convinced that some fans of the then-98-year-old director valued the film only because Oliveira could be seen in it driving a car. There will no doubt be similar skepticism in some quarters towards the neo-western CRY MACHO for containing images of the now-ancient Eastwood riding a horse, punching someone in the face, and dancing with a much-younger señora (the wonderful Natalia Traven). But Eastwood’s performance here is genuinely and subtly moving: there’s a scene where his character, a retired rodeo star, cries while talking about mistakes he’s made, and it’s filmed in such a daringly offhanded manner, with the actor’s cowboy hat slung low over his eyes, that many viewers likely won’t even notice the single tear that streams down his face while he’s reminiscing. The low-key, no-fuss approach is characteristic of both the director and the movie as a whole. CRY MACHO features perhaps the most beautiful widescreen landscape shots that Eastwood has ever composed (with New Mexico credibly standing in for Mexico), even though, typical for a director famed for his visual economy, he refuses to linger on any of them for a second longer than necessary. A small masterpiece that deserves to be seen on the big screen. (2021, 104 min, DCP Digital) [Michael Glover Smith]


About michaelgloversmith

Filmmaker, author and Film Studies instructor. View all posts by michaelgloversmith

4 responses to “Clint Eastwood’s CRY MACHO

  • Joel Wicklund

    Masterpiece? I think you are fan-boying a bit too much on this one.

    Saw it last night and, while it has some nice moments, for me it’s crippled by poor casting in the two leads. The kid is just not very good — not as bad as the kid in “Gran Torino,” but pretty bad. And Clint, despite his gravitas, is 20 to 30 years too old for the part as written. Not for a second did his riding the bucking horse (obviously stunted) or even punching the guy in the parking lot seem plausible. He struggles getting up from the ground, walks tentatively, his voice is weak…he is 90. No shame in that, but prior to this, he has always been very good at facing his age — even in “The Mule” (a quirky movie I liked). In “Cry Macho,” he seems to be trying to dodge the extent of his aging; he looks considerably weaker even than in “The Mule,” but the actions of the hero do not correspond to that.

    The romance with the cafe owner was a little uncomfortable because of the age gap, but the attempted seduction scene with the kid’s mother made me utterly queasy. (Of course, Clint’s real-life pattern of increasing generational gaps in his personal relationships probably blinds him to it, even though his streak of relationships reads like a car wreck report.)

    I would have loved to have seen the lead played by Sam Elliott (a tad too old himself, but more plausible physically) or even Kevin Costner, though I’m not a huge fan. He would have been a good fit here.

    Maybe this was a case where Clint’s rep for almost never changing scripts as written came back to bite him. (That first scene with Dwight Yoakam was scripted by that infamous serviceman-screenwriter, Major Exposition.) It does have some nice moments, but as a dedicated Eastwood fan, I have to mark this one as a miss.

    • michaelgloversmith

      I’m a Clint fan-boy for sure but not an uncritical one! I actively dislike JERSEY BOYS and THE ROOKIE. I would argue that Clint being “too old” for the role is part of what makes CRY MACHO so moving. It will probably be his final performance and the script was clearly tailored for him. The credited screenwriters are Richard Nash (who died 20 years ago) and Nick Schenk (Clint’s favorite recent screenwriter, who obviously re-wrote it much later). I also think the kid is good!

      Anyway, I agree that Yoakam’s first appearance, where he’s an exposition machine, and the scene with Rafo’s oversexed, alcoholic mother are problematic but they are relatively minor flaws in a film that really hits its stride in the second act, the relaxed pacing of which I find quite frankly sublime. I could’ve watched Clint pet animals, fix a jukebox, learn how to make tortillas, dance, etc. forever!

  • Joel Wicklund

    I would have been delighted with a movie where all Clint did was treat village animals from a rocking chair. Honestly. The drama could have been strictly about the pig’s weight loss and I would have enjoyed that. Schenk should have gone in that direction. I think “The Mule” addressed his screen persona without requiring such a ridiculous amount of suspension of disbelief.

    I actually kind of like “Jersey Boys” until the closing production number, when it tries to become the traditional musical it had wisely avoided being (not Clint’s wheelhouse) until then. But though I believe at his best Eastwood is among the top-tier filmmakers and I always look forward to his work, I think he can be really uneven. For me, “Invictus,” “Hereafter” and “J. Edgar” was a late-career trifecta nadir I did not expect him to recover from. But then, he surprised me with how great “American Sniper” and “Sully” were (putting lame closing credits sequences aside), and while the slut-shaming in “Richard Jewell” is a massive problem, it’s a really fine film in other respects. Let’s pretend “15:17 to Paris” never happened. Some other weak spots in his very prolific career, but he has usually come back with something special. I even forgive “The Rookie,” which is terrible, as it was his “payment” to the studio for getting to make “White Hunter, Black Heart.”

  • My Favorite Films of 2021 | White City Cinema

    […] My estimation for this late-period masterpiece has only grown since my first viewing. After some bumpy narrative exposition and the introduction of some red-herring genre trappings, it settles into a sublime, near-plotless meditation on the importance of slowing down and enjoying life: you know, just hanging out with other people, petting animals, taking a nap, dancing, making food. That sort of thing. To paraphrase something Roberto Rossellini once said about Chaplin’s A KING IN NEW YORK, it’s the film of a free man. You can hear me discuss it with Bennett Glace on the Split Tooth Media Podcast here. You can read my original review for Cine-file here. […]

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