Director Clint Eastwood, a cinema hero who is deeply embedded in our popular culture, helms “Cry Macho,” a cowboy tale of sorts. Though it has elements of sentimentality, it is irrepressibly warm, engaging and humorous. The film is laced with a quirky spirit, and a madcap edge is entertaining throughout.
Mike (Eastwood) a septuagenarian and a former rodeo rider is a widower and a survivor from a catastrophic accident in which his back was broken. As a consequence, Mike has grown rueful but not bitter. Mike is a man of few words but he also possesses great wit. Some actors might have made this character a snooze, but once again Eastwood is a master of gesture and minimalism.
An old friend, Howard (Dwight Yoakam) pays Mike a visit and tells him that he needs to rescue Howard’s Mexican son Rafo (Eduardo Minett) from a cycle of violent delinquency, and abuse from his kingpin mother (Fernanda Urrejola). Mike is not thrilled to help Howard but as he helped him when he was out of commission, it is the right thing to do.
Here Eastwood is a “Shane” character and we are hooked from the first silhouette of his cowboy form creating western calligraphy on a Mexican saloon.
Mike tries to get the straight story from the boy’s lascivious mother, but she calls her son an animal and a monster.
Rafo resorts to cockfighting, the combat of roosters to live. Rafo is adorable— round cheeked and bright eyed— far from a monster.
Though the role is akin to Disney, Rafo exchanges enough quips to make it enjoyable and genuine spirit ensues. The quips bounce along. The amused sweet sourness of Mike mixes well with the free spontaneity of Rafo. Each one is delighted by the other.
The pair wind up on the run from the law and a sweet yet aggressive Macho, a rooster, is along for the ride. Mike, Rafo and Macho take refuge in a quiet, yet festive cafe run by the gentle and sultry Marta (Natalia Traven). Traven is excellent, with some of the film’s best scenes.
True, this is familiar Eastwood territory but the iconic actor handles it so well with heart, gusto and picturesque verve, familiarity here breeds affection rather than something cloying or annoying.
The softer almost silent scenes where a young toddler puts her hand on Mike’s as the reticent and Calvinist cowboy remembers to smile is wonderful. There are warm human touches and small moments of great sweetness throughout.
When Eastwood embraces the egoless and free Marta, whose face looks like a caressing sun, emotion will hit you in the chest.
Only Eastwood could make the story of a supposedly shifty Disneyesque teen with a nervous rooster and give it qualities of apprehension and a real sense of wistfulness.
Write Ian at firstname.lastname@example.org