At the very least, Clint Eastwood’s latest has an awesome title: “Cry Macho”. The film, set in 1979, shows what Eastwood can still do at 91. Clint is riding a horse. Hit a bad guy. Sleeps outside on the earth. Seduces a lady (or two). Avoid a police raid. To make the movie a little more relatable, it takes a satisfying nap in the sun.
Mike of Eastwood is a former rodeo rider and horse trainer, living with many dusty memories of the glory days. One morning, his boss Howard (Dwight Yoakam) loses patience and dismisses the old man: “You are no loss to anyone.
Mike growls, “You have always been small and weak and without guts.”
Despite this controversial argument, Howard asks Mike to descend to Mexico City and pick up his long-lost son, the product of a subpoena with a shady seductress.
The elderly fixer dutifully travels south and meets Leta (Fernanda Urrejola) in her silky underwear. When Mike refuses her tempting offer of a bun in the hay, she throws him onto the streets, claiming he will never be able to find the boy in a town of 20 million people. But it takes Mike about 10 minutes to find young Rafo (Eduardo Minett) in a cockfight, holding his prize bird, Macho.
What happens next looks a lot like a kidnapping, but Mike runs away with the kid in a firm but avuncular manner – if that’s one thing finicky teens love, it’s the nineties disciplinarians. Ultimately, Rafo’s savagery is mostly defined by a bit of dirt on his face and a fighting cock under his arm. The latter of whom Mike groans in the truck: “I don’t want him to shit on the upholstery.”
Despite the old man’s reproach, Macho is a real pretty chicken, and he comes in handy a few times as Mike and Rafo escape Federales and Leta’s henchmen on their way back north.
When they run into car trouble, Mike embraces life south of the border to the fullest – he loses his gringo clothes and finds something more appropriate, settling in chic style befitting an unnamed grandfather. Rafo’s character is a blank slate but it works well for Mike, who teaches him to ride horses and respect his elders.
In the dusty pueblo, they meet a kind cafe owner, Marta (Natalia Traven). Like Mike, she’s a widow and sweetly horny – soon they slowly dance and bake homemade tortillas together before Mike reads the grandchildren’s bedtime stories in broken Spanish. More remarkable still, he becomes the laconic Dr Doolittle of the city. He fixes a wounded goat, shames a big little pig and whispers to a few horses.
Most of the scenes glow in the pleasant patina of the late afternoon light, designed by cinematographer Ben Davis. Everything is quite majestic except that for some reason Mike still wants to finish the job and bring Rafo back to old Howard in Texas.
Thanks to Eastwood for putting some interesting lines at the end about how he “used to be macho” and how rotten it was. There’s something fascinating about the director – on his (perhaps) last ride – addressing the dangers of ultra-masculinity to a teenager. It’s healthy entertainment, highlighting the fact that you can get by with a little help from your friends or your rooster.