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Clint Eastwood stars in Cry Macho.

Warner Bros.

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  • Cry Macho
  • Directed by Clint Eastwood
  • Written by N. Richard Nash, Nick Schenk
  • Starring Clint Eastwood, Dwight Yoakam, Eduardo Minett, Fernanda Urrejola, Natalia Traven
  • Classification PG in all provinces except Quebec, where it’s rated G. 104 mins
  • Available in theatres starting Sept. 17

Actual conversation at our dining table.

Me: I’m reviewing a Clint Eastwood movie.

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Daughter, 11: Who’s Clint Eastwood?

Son, 9: Can I play Minecraft after dinner?

Kids’ father in an incredulous voice: He’s acting? How old is he now?

Me: 91. Guess what the movie is about?

Kids’ father: An old cowboy teaching a young man how to ride horses.

Me: Pretty much.

Based on a novel by N. Richard Nash that’s set in the 1970s, Cry Macho is about aging rodeo star Mike Milo, who lost his glory long ago to an accident, booze and drugs.

Claire Folger/Warner Bros.

I swear on everything dear to me that exchange happened, and that’s pretty much all you need to know about the latest movie directed and produced by Eastwood, who also plays a leading role in it.

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Based on a novel by N. Richard Nash that’s set in the 1970s, Cry Macho is about aging rodeo star Mike Milo, who lost his glory long ago to an accident, booze and drugs. His boss Howard (Dwight Yoakam hamming it up) helpfully tells us this in the opening scene – and then promptly fires Mike from his job as a horse breeder and trainer.

“I always thought of you as a small, weak, gutless man. But you know, there’s no reason to be rude,” Mike retorts. That line, shown in the trailer, was the best one in the movie. Eastwood’s voice always had a gravelly quality. But now it’s raspy, and at times phlegmy. You realize how old he’s gotten.

Improbably, a year after firing him, Howard turns to Mike for a favour. He wants to rescue his teenage, troubled son Rafa (Eduardo Minett) from his mother Leta’s (Fernanda Urrejola) clutches in Mexico. “She’s abusing him,” Howard appeals to Mike’s humanity before piling on the guilt. “You owe me.”

As Mike agrees to take on the job, your mind races, while your eyes and ears are lulled by golden hour shots of Texan landscapes and twangy country songs. Who needs an actual script with any sense of nuance in the dialogue when it’s Eastwood? Does it make sense that Mike is the best man for the job, given how frail Eastwood looks: his jeans barely hanging on his frame with that big-buckled belt, his jacket almost ballooning on his hunched back? But you keep watching, remembering the old cowboy icon.

It’s clear that Cry Macho was made because Eastwood wanted to make it. He was reportedly supposed to star in this movie in the 1980s, but then went on to do other projects.

Warner Bros.

It’s not difficult for Mike to find Leta in her mansion. She dares him to take her son away, but then changes her mind. Mike easily finds Rafa – with his rooster named Macho. (It’s part of the plot, go with it.)

Rafa is suspicious of the “old gringo.” But he agrees to cross the border; his situation is precarious. They set off, with Leta’s goons and Mexican police at their heels.

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This leads the duo to take a diversion through a small town. A woman named Marta (Natalia Traven) offers them refuge. There’s even potential for romance. It’s tempting to stay but they have a mission. A few other truths are revealed; Mike dispenses Rafa some advice on machismo.

It’s clear that Cry Macho was made because Eastwood wanted to make it. He was reportedly supposed to star in this movie in the 1980s, but then went on to do other projects. Other big names have been attached to the movie over the years, including Burt Lancaster, Pierce Brosnan and Arnold Schwarzenegger. If Eastwood had been two decades younger, he might have been believable in the role. There are a few moments between Mike and Rafa where you see a flicker of the old movie star. His character is sweeter versus the roles he played in Gran Torino or The Mule, which covered similar ground.

Critics have been hedging their bets as to Eastwood’s last movie. Will it be Cry Macho? Who knows. Do we need another Eastwood movie? I am still trying to figure that one out. On the one hand, you gotta give it to the man. He’s got grit. But surely, there are other cowboys whose stories are just as worth telling.

In the interest of consistency across all critics’ reviews, The Globe has eliminated its star-rating system in film and theatre to align with coverage of music, books, visual arts and dance. Instead, works of excellence will be noted with a critic’s pick designation across all coverage. (Television reviews, typically based on an incomplete season, are exempt.)

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