The Mule

Critics Consensus

A flawed yet enjoyable late-period Eastwood entry, The Mule stubbornly retains its footing despite a few missteps on its occasionally unpredictable path.



Reviews Counted: 172

liked it

Audience Score

User Ratings: 2,599


All Critics | Top Critics
Average Rating: N/A
Reviews Count: 0
Fresh: 0
Rotten: 0


Average Rating: 3.6/5

You may have noticed some of the recent changes we have made. To read more about what we’ve been working on behind the scenes, please check out our new RT Product Blog here.

Want to See

Add Rating
My Rating    

The Mule Videos

The Mule Photos

Movie Info

Earl Stone, a man in his 80s who is broke, alone, and facing foreclosure of his business when he is offered a job that simply requires him to drive. Easy enough, but, unbeknownst to Earl, he's just signed on as a drug courier for a Mexican cartel. He does well -- so well, in fact, that his cargo increases exponentially, and Earl is assigned a handler. But he isn't the only one keeping tabs on Earl; the mysterious new drug mule has also hit the radar of hard-charging DEA agent Colin Bates. And even as his money problems become a thing of the past, Earl's past mistakes start to weigh heavily on him, and it's uncertain if he'll have time to right those wrongs before law enforcement, or the cartel's enforcers, catch up to him.

Watch it now


News & Interviews for The Mule

Critic Reviews for The Mule

All Critics (172) | Top Critics (29)

  • It's a watchable movie, loosely based on a true story; there's a nice storytelling swing to it and Eastwood is frankly far more interesting than Robert Redford was in his recent swansong.

    Jan 23, 2019 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • The Mule thrives in teasing ambiguity...For decades now, Eastwood has been one of the great interrogators of American social mores.

    Jan 3, 2019 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…
  • This movie is as much a eulogy for a country that Eastwood sees as slowly crumbling as it is for the life Earl chose to lead.

    Dec 21, 2018 | Full Review…
  • A little nuance and it could have gotten there, but Eastwood's already moving on.

    Dec 16, 2018 | Rating: B- | Full Review…
  • Tonally, this thing is a disaster, and you can only conclude that its maker, capable of sharp ironies as recently as 2014's American Sniper, didn't fully digest the material.

    Dec 14, 2018 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…
  • There's nothing heroic about Earl, but in Eastwood's 38th film as a director, he makes the character a felonious centerpiece as likable as anyone could ever imagine.

    Dec 14, 2018 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

    Rex Reed

    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Mule


For all purposes, this is Gran Torino 2 - or how Clint Eastwood plays another cartoonish old geezer who has the depth of a saucer (and befuddling motivations) and is supposed to be funny by talking shit to strangers - so, let's just forget this and go for Breaking Bad instead.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer


Clint Eastwood plays a real-life 90-year-old drug mule, though I must inform you dear reader that at no point does he hide his cargo in a very uncomfortable place. The Mule is an interesting story about the most unexpected mule. Eastwood plays a man broke and on the outs with the family he's neglected their entire lives. He takes up an offer to simply drive albeit for a Mexican drug cartel. As with most life-of-crime movies, what starts off uneasily becomes second nature as our characters get in over their heads. Except that doesn't really happen in The Mule. I would estimate twenty percent of the movie is watching Eastwood drive and sing along to the radio. There are some tense near misses where he's almost caught, but these are confined to the first half. In the second half the cartel becomes the chief source of danger, all because he doesn't go by their routes. If he's their most successful mule, having never had a ticket in his life, then why micromanage? There are some other nitpicks that nagged at me, like the cartel knows the DEA agents (Bradley Cooper and Michael Pena) are pulling over a very specific color and kind of car, but at no point do they change out Eastwood's car. Also, Eastwood is spending vast sums of money in public for a man who was losing his house, and yet no red flags there. Eventually Eastwood has to make a choice of family over angering the cartel and risking his life, and I think you'll know where his character arc is destined. The dramatic shape of the movie feels a little too inert for the stakes involved, leading to an all too tidy conclusion. Eastwood delivers a fine performance, as does every other actor involved. The movie kind of coasts along, much like Eastwood in his truck, on the inherent interest of its premise and the star power of its lead/director. The Mule might have worked better as a documentary. Nate's Grade: B-

Nate Zoebl
Nate Zoebl

Super Reviewer

KISS MY ASS - My Review of THE MULE (2 Stars) As much as I'm in awe of an 88-year-old man churning out a couple of films a year, two of which went on to win Best Picture Oscars, sometimes I wish Clint Eastwood would just slow the f*ck down and bring a little more TLC to the scripts he directs, the pacing, and tonal consistency. With THE MULE, his 37th feature film as a director, he has taken a totally compelling saga, adapted by Nick Schenk from Sam Dolnick's 2014 New York Times magazine story, and has delivered something scattershot, stop-and-go, and just plain odd. He has opted for something mild (which would have been a really good alternate review title now that I think about it) despite the fact that this story has social relevance and fairly high stakes. Eastwood plays Earl Stone, an elderly horticulturist who has gone broke, lost his house, and incurred the wrath of his ex-wife and daughter (played by Dianne Wiest and Alison Eastwood respectively), whom he consistently disappoints with his flaky behavior. If it weren't for his loving granddaughter Ginny (Taissa Farmiga), Earl would never be allowed at family functions, such as Ginny's wedding. It's at her pre-wedding celebration where Earl meets a guest who turns him on to a job opportunity driving mysterious packages across the country. Earl, being of the age that falls for email scams such as "I'm the Prince of Nigeria and can you hold onto my millions for a month", doesn't catch on at first that he's been hired as a mule for a Mexican drug cartel. Realizing he's quite good at driving unnoticed, Earl signs up for repeat assignments which solve his financial woes. It's only a matter of time, however, until the DEA catches up to him, with a serviceable Bradley Cooper and Michael Peña leading the charge. On paper, this sounds like a wonderful ticking clock thriller featuring current economic undertones and the difficulty our aging population has of finding its footing. Unfortunately, the script makes Earl an unrepentant casual racist and homophobe. He may learn to recognize that he's neglected his family all these years, but pretty much gets away with using the terms "maricon" and "negro" in moments which are meant to show how amusingly out of touch he is, instead of being an asshole. Oh that Earl! He's set in in his ways! Isn't he the bees knees? Eastwood also gives the film a too-folksy tone with its plethora of 70s soft rock hits and country jingles laid over every driving scene. Even more vexing is the middle of the movie scene in which a Latino gets pulled over by the cops and informs them twice that minorities are most likely to die at the point of being stopped by law enforcement. It's a worthwhile message, of course, but it comes across like an overwritten PSA. Everything about this film feels a little light and off-key, especially considering how serious his crimes are and how it contains the real possibility he could be killed or jailed at any moment. Earl's meant to be charming. He doesn't know how to text but he gets to know the cartel flunkies personally. He even turns the tension with his handler (Ignacio Serricchio form Netflix's LOST IN SPACE) into buddy comedy material. It's all fun and games until somebody gets hurt. It doesn't help that Eastwood works with a jumpy script. At one moment, Cooper's character is given until the end of the day to capture Earl. Sounds good. Let the tension mount. Instead, with no further mention of time running out, we cut to Earl arriving in Mexico to meet with the cartel head (Andy Garcia) and twerk endlessly with bikini-clad women at a pool party. Huh? What happened to the timeline? Holy SCARFACE, why this very long sidetrack to show us a rager? Didn't Eastwood get this sexy time out of his system in THE 15:17 TO PARIS? Why are there so many close-ups of butts? THE MULE doesn't really achieve its potential for depth because it doesn't quite take the rich material seriously. There's one great shot of Eastwood, however, towards the end of the film. Bloodied and bruised (although we're not sure how), he drives and looks into the camera with the soured, grizzled, mad at the world rage we've been waiting for. It captures perfectly the absurdity of the situation and tonally, this demeanor would have worked throughout. Perhaps the filmmakers are staying true to the real person, but this film would have had a lot more gravitas had it mined Earl's anger and not his genial side. To put it succinctly, I'd rather hear him yell "Get off my lawn" than sing along terribly to Charles Earland's "More Today Than Yesterday".

Glenn Gaylord
Glenn Gaylord

Super Reviewer

Whether it's with movies like Trouble with the Curve or even more recent movies like The 15:17 to Paris, it should go without question that Clint Eastwood isn't making classics when he puts himself behind the camera over the last decade. I believe Gran Torino was his last memorable film that people will revisit for years to come. With that said, as far as movies he has directed, The Mule is almost good enough to join his club of recent classics. The way he tells this story in a very straightforward fashion may prevent that from happening, but this is a very enjoyable movie from start to finish. At 88 years old, this man shows no signs of slowing down and when you can still have gems like this every now and then, why should he? I had a very good time watching this film and here's why. After being fired from his job of many years, the now 90-year-old man in Earl Stone turns to smuggling drugs in the back of his truck when given the opportunity. Earning the respect from many members of the Mexican Cartel, he becomes a little more entangled with the goings on than he had originally planned. He enjoys the big paydays, but his streak of luck may be soon running out. Being hunted by DEA agents, this story quickly becomes interesting. Cutting back and forth between the two storylines, these two stories made for a very likable overall film. It also doesn't hurt that Eastwood has assembled an all-star cast once again. Obviously, Clint Eastwood as the leading man will please many viewers, as he has become an all-time classic. On top of a great leading performance, Bradley Cooper, Lawrence Fishburne, Michael Peña, Andy Garcia, Taissa Farmiga, and a few notable others support this story with a force that felt needed. I honestly found myself engaged from start to finish, regardless of the pacing. If it were a quiet character moment or a sequence of intensity, I was on the edge of my seat. It's not the most exciting film I've seen in a while or anything of that nature, but it's a film that cares about the story it's telling and just goes for it. As I mentioned, it's very straightforward, which is where I find my biggest complaints. Once the core story kicks in, it does go through the motions that you come to expect from a story like this, with not much new to offer. He is thrust into a life of crime that he didn't expect, he enjoys the fame while it lasts, and it will all eventually collapse in one way or another. For that reason, I wasn't impressed by the movie on a storytelling level, but more on how the story itself was told. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, due to the dialogue that was written by Nick Schenk, who also handled a similar Eastwood character in Gran Torino. I wasn't a big fan of his previous work on The Judge, but I'm happy to see a big improvement here. I look forward to seeing what feature film comes from his screenplays next. Overall, The Mule will surely please fans of Clint Eastwood and fans of this genre in general, but those who go in hoping for a complex story that deviates from the norm may slightly be disappointed. This movie won't likely win any awards, but it's absolutely worth seeing. This is an easy watch with a solid screenplay, great performances, and an overall satisfying narrative. It's not a must see, but I do recommend checking out The Mule.

KJ Proulx
KJ Proulx

Super Reviewer

The Mule Quotes

There are no approved quotes yet for this movie.

News & Features