“THE MULE” Rated R

A Film and TV Review by Tim Riley

THE MULE” Rated R

A person begins a life of crime typically at a young age, but the true story of Leo Sharp upends that scenario, for he became a drug courier as an octogenarian. This forms the basis for Clint Eastwood’s “The Mule,” for which he directs himself as the titular character.

In the cinematic version, Eastwood’s Earl Sharp is a 90-year-old war veteran and horticulturist famed for his daylilies. So far this parallels the same background of his real-life subject matter.

In “The Mule” version, Earl has a farm in Peoria, Illinois and he’s fallen on hard times as his flower business has been hurt by the online marketplace. As a result, the local bank forecloses on his home and business.

At his granddaughter’s wedding, he learns making good money as a truck driver. But Earl is unaware that his advanced age and spotless driving record of going to far-flung places in his old Chevy pickup is of interest to a Mexican drug cartel.

As a driver, Earl’s proves his worth by numerous trips between Arizona and Detroit delivering bundles of illicit drugs. At first, he’s unaware of his cargo, but the payments for his efforts are so generous that he’s soon able to reclaim his property from the bank.

The ill-gotten gains also allow Earl to rebuild the local Veterans of Foreign Wars hall for his war buddies. He also seeks to ingratiate himself with his estranged family.

The family angle becomes an interesting part of the story. His ex-wife Mary (Dianne Wiest) remains bitter that he spent their marriage on the road, while his daughter Iris (Alison Eastwood) hasn’t spoken to him since the day he failed to show up for her wedding.

Meanwhile, Earl merrily goes his own way with drug deliveries, even forming a bond with the Latinos at the nondescript garage where transfers of money and drugs are loaded into his truck.

But it’s not all fun and games for Earl when Mexican drug lord Senor Laton (Andy Garcia), seeing how his mule is taking on bigger hauls, assigns an unpleasant handler (Ignacio Serricchio) to keep tabs on Earl’s activities.

Meanwhile, the fact that drugs are flooding into the Midwest are not going unnoticed by federal law enforcement, and Bradley Cooper’s DEA agent Colin Bates, assisted by Agent Trevino (Michael Pena), goes on the road to track down an elusive courier.

Before his eventual capture by the law, there’s an interesting encounter between Agent Bates and Earl at a dinner where the conversation is about life choices with Earl paradoxically telling the agent that family is the most important thing.

In the end, before his own misguided choice unravels, Earl seeks to mend his ways with his family, not just with cash, and though it may be a little too late, he nevertheless seeks redemption.

For Eastwood fans who liked “Gran Torino,” there’s pleasure to be had with the almost parallel world of “The Mule.” The octogenarian director and star still has what it takes to deliver a good movie.

FAM” ON CBS NETWORK

The best thing about the new sitcom “FAM” on the CBS winter schedule just might be the casting, even though laughs are to be had about a young engaged couple getting their life upended by the woman’s estranged family.

Tone Bell’s Nick and Nina Dobrev’s Clem, the charismatic couple, are also upstaged in many ways by Nick’s charming and supportive parents, Rose (Sheryl Lee Ralph) and Walt (Brian Stokes Mitchell, a leading man of musical theatre on Broadway).

On the flipside is Clem’s deadbeat father Freddy (Gary Cole), a NYPD homicide detective who was too busy with his job and chasing women to spend much time with Clem and her half-sister Shannon (Odessa Adlon).

Of greater concern to Nick and Clem is when Shannon shows up uninvited by picking the lock to their apartment. Suddenly, without any help from Freddy, the couple becomes unwilling surrogate parents to an out-of-control rebellious teen who dropped out of high school.

This turn of events leads to all sorts of comedic complications while Nick and Clem are in the midst of planning a wedding for which Rose, for one, seems to want a role in organizing.

Gary Cole scores many of the laughs with his carefree attitude about all family matters before shifting gears to trying mightily to impress his daughters and Nick’s parents that he is becoming a changed person.

Invited to a family dinner, Freddy dresses up nicely and brings an expensive bottle of wine for Rose and Walt, and then he just happens to admit that the fancy wine belonged to a hedge fund manager and was “swiped from the evidence locker.”

“FAM” has comedic promise that is worth a try. The show’s title is inspired by Shannon’s remark that “no one says family any more, it’s just fam.” This slang word has not been in my vernacular and probably never will be. However, I could tune into more episodes of “FAM.”

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