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Cry Macho (2021) – Review: A Low-Key Exploration of Finding Purpose Again

September 29, 2021

Quick Thoughts – Grade – B – Based on the 1975 novel written by N. Richard Nash, Cry Macho, is an offbeat exploration of getting old, learning new tricks, and finding a new purpose. While many won’t appreciate its low key vibe, others will be thrilled with Eastwood’s laid back exploration of pointless machismo.

Set in 1979, Cry Macho tells the story of a washed-up rodeo tough guy named Mike Milo (Clint Eastwood) who travels to Mexico City to pick up Rafael (Eduardo Minnett) the 13-year old son of his former boss (Dwight Yokam), who is living on the streets because he’s afraid of his mom Leta (Fernanda Urrejola), who is some sort of criminal who has several armed henchmen. What’s refreshing, is that aside from a few punches, and a couple low-key car chases, Cry Macho mostly focuses on the relationship between Milo and Rafael (AKA Rafo), who are in much different stages of their lives. The widowed Mike is old enough to realize his wild ways were a waste of time, while Rafael is trying to find his way in life, and establish his own tough roots. Together, the two journey back to Texas, and are joined by Rafo’s rooster Macho (played by 11 roosters – all amazing), who is an all-star cockfighter (named Macho lol) back in Mexico City. The journey isn’t totally easy as Leta’s henchmen are always nearby, and they have to steal a car (which breaks down) after Mike’s car is stolen.

Eastwood was originally offered the role in 1988, but he turned it down because he was too young. 33 years later, at the age of 91, Eastwood has aged perfectly into the role as his tough guy filmography, slim frame, gravely voice, and hunched stance make him the perfect candidate to play a guy who regrets years of tough guy nonsense. The decades-long wait was worth it, and we’re lucky that actors such as Arnold Schwarzenegger considered the role, and passed on it, because he probably would’ve added too much machoness to a role that doesn’t need machismo. It’s neat seeing Eastwood monologue about wasted years, and saying things like “If a guy wants to name his cock Macho, that’s okay by me.” A role like this requires someone who is old enough to care less about how he looks, and more about how his tough guy years were pointless. 

The cinematography by Ben Davis (Doctor Strange, Kick-Ass) is solid, as it captures the open vistas of Mexico, while adhering to Eastwood’s fast moving style (he finished the film one day ahead of schedule, during a pandemic). Also, the screenplay by Eastwood regular Nick Shenk (Gran Torino, The Mule)  avoids stock tropes (car chases, thrilling brawls, major life lessons) and comes to life during conversations, slow dances, and the moments when 91-year old Eastwood rides a horse. What’s interesting is that none of the conversations are overwritten or self-important, and instead rely on little nuggets of wisdom, or small asides that eschew anything remotely close to life changing rhetoric. There aren’t any Gran Torino-esque quotes (Get off my Lawn), or Dirty Harry threats, it’s just a broken old man driving a young kid to Texas, and it’s refreshing. If you are looking for the quotability of Gran Torino, prestige of Letters From Iwo Jima, or the quick and brutal violence of Unforgiven, you’ll be disappointed. Just expect a laid back tale of a man finding meaning again.

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