Cry Macho review: Clint Eastwood plays the last cowboy in blunt, elegiac Western
Cry Macho (2021 movie)
At 91, Clint Eastwood is more than an actor; he's an institution, a bulwark, a base mineral. That granite squint — and all its history — hangs heavily over Cry Macho, a movie of such complete elemental Clint-ness that it feels in some ways like a summation of his whole career, and a requiem for it too. The story itself is pure Western pulp, a dime-store roundelay of banditos, lost dreams, and femme fatales. But the poignancy of watching him play the cowboy once more feels like its own exercise in a kind of collective connective remembering: a bygone vision of masculinity whose template he didn't just embody on screen for decades, but half-invented our idea of in the first place.
The first thing to know, maybe, is that the origins of Cry dates back nearly 50 years; a long and winding road whose lead casting at one point or another included Arnold Schwarzenegger, Roy Scheider, and even Eastwood himself, who passed on the role in the late 1980s. The second thing to know is that Macho is also the name of a chicken — specifically a prized rooster owned by the 12-year-old boy that Eastwood's Mike Milo, a washed-up Texas ranch hand and rodeo man, has been sent down to Mexico City to fetch. Though it's essentially more like a sanctioned kidnapping: His old boss Howard (Dwight Yoakam) hasn't seen his estranged son in years, but he wants to take him back from his abusive mother, and Mike — once a championship rider, until he broke his back and fell into pills and booze — owes him more than one favor.
Her child, the boy's angry, inebriated mother (Fernanda Urrejola) tells Mike when he gets there, is a lost cause: a savage hooligan who can't be tamed. But Rafo (Eduardo Minet), when he finds him at a back-alley cockfight, just seems like a lost kid who really loves his rooster. And so the pair begin their journey back toward the border, where various messy if somehow consistently surmountable complications ensue. Will the juvenile delinquent and the crusty bronco forge a bond? Does a horse poop hay?
As a director, Eastwood keeps his tone almost primordially simple; not for Macho are the murky moral calculations and defined character arcs of The Unforgiven, American Sniper, or even Gran Torino. As an actor, too, he allows himself certain outlandish vanities: Women, for one, can't seem to stop throwing themselves at Mike's feet in a fever of sexual need, and hardened criminals cower at his right hook. But there's a baseline sweetness to his interactions with Rafo, and something genuinely affecting in watching him lay down to sleep on a desert floor with his ten-gallon hat in his lap, or head down a dusty road with Macho strutting faithfully behind. His Mike is a man out of time: a lone-wolf reminder of a world that once was, and will most likely be lost when he goes. Grade: C+