I was born in 1970, so as much as I know of Clint Eastwood as “The Man with No Name” from his westerns and “Dirty” Harry Callahan from that series of films, those aren’t the Eastwood movies I grew up watching. The Clint roles that really resonated with me were his portrayals of Frank Morris in Escape from Alcatraz, Mitchell Gant in Firefox, Preacher in Pale Rider, and Frank Horrigan in In the Line of Fire.
(Fun fact: Growing up, Clint used to caddy at the country club I worked at in the Bay Area. He returned as a guest and played a round while I worked there, and I all but ran into him as he was walking out of the pro shop’s bathroom. He was a lot thinner looking than I expected, but his gravelly, “Excuse me . . .” was spot on.)
While Eastwood has still been busy directing, he has taken fewer roles in front of the camera, and there has definitely been an introspective, looking-back-on-life feel to several of the characters he’s played recently, including Earl Stone in The Mule and Walt Kowalski in Gran Torino. Now at 91, Clint is back in front of and behind the camera as producer and director of Cry Macho.
Based on the 1975 N. Richard Nash novel of the same
MACHO AT A GLANCE
Don’t expect any action—or much of anything else—here; just a 91-year-old Clint Eastwood shuffling around the frame.
Images are clean and sharp, with plenty of detail in the closeups.
There’s not much audio here to take advantage of any surround sound, but dialogue is the star of this soundtrack and it’s presented clearly in the center channel.
name, I can’t help but feel a lot was shredded from the novel’s 302 pages to get to the 104-minute film we have here. And for anyone expecting any of Eastwood’s signature western-style action, I’d point to this bit of dialogue from The Simpsons when Homer brings home a copy of Paint Your Wagon for the family to watch:
Homer: A Clint Eastwood/Lee Marvin shoot ‘em up western!
Bart: So, prepare yourself for the bloody mayhem and unholy carnage of Joshua Logan’s Paint Your Wagon!
Homer: With blood, I bet! (Starts watching . . .) They’re singing, Marge! Why aren’t they killing each other?
Bart: Yeah, their guns are right there . . .
The film opens in 1979 in Texas with Mike Milo (Eastwood), an injured and retired rodeo star overcoming a drinking problem, summarily fired by his boss Howard Polk (Dwight Yoakam). A year later, Polk calls up Milo and explains that his 13-year-old son, Rafo (Eduardo Minett), is being abused and he wants him back but due to “some legal trouble” down in Mexico, he is unable to go and get him. And Milo owes him, so he needs to go down to Mexico City to find Polk’s son and bring him back to Texas.
Milo heads down and makes contact with the boy’s mother, Leta (Fernanda Urrejola), and locates Rafo on the streets cockfighting with his rooster named Macho. Rafo agrees to go and meet his father, and the two head back to Texas. Along the way, Rafo and Milo exchange stories about life and what it means to “be macho,” giving Eastwood a chance to open up, reflect, and show some emotion. The pair end up getting stuck in a small city after their car is stolen, where Milo develops a romantic interest in Marta (Natalia Traven), a woman running a small café.
If you’re looking for action of almost any kind, you’re likely to be disappointed by Cry Macho. While it isn’t realistic to expect Eastwood to be an action star in his 90s, I figured there would be some drama or conflict here. Honestly, I don’t think I was prepared for this film to be as slow and meandering as it was. It’s like a road movie that just never gets up and goes anywhere.
Also—and there’s not a kind way to put this—Eastwood just looks and acts so old. Sure, he has his signature glare and scowl but his movements and manners are that of an old person. There is one scene where he is on a bed reading to Marta’s grandchildren and we see Milo from the back and he just looks so frail and delicate, like how your great-grandpa would be. Even delivering his lines, there are times when he seems a bit shaky and unsure. It’s a little bit painful to watch, like seeing a boxer long past his prime stepping into the ring and then getting hammered.
And a lot of the story just didn’t seem compelling, believable, or even make sense. Polk hadn’t seen his son in years—his only picture is of the boy when he is like five or so—so now he wants him back and he sends a recovering alcoholic nonagenarian to go and get him? And Leta lives in like a mansion or something and has bodyguards like she is a cartel boss or something, and she is an attractive woman 50 years Clint’s junior, yet she is bizarrely trying to seduce him in her bedroom? It’s not only odd, it’s icky. Milo, who can barely amble around, comes to the aid of a local rancher and starts breaking these wild stallions. And then Milo’s ultimate love interest Marta is played by another actress 40 years younger than Clint.
The few jokes also feel forced, flat, and frankly just aren’t funny. The big “punchline” is Milo telling Rafo, “Guy wants to name his cock Macho, it’s OK by me.”
Released both cinematically and day & date on HBO Max on September 17, Cry Macho is taken from a 4K digital intermediate. Much of the color palette is soft, dusty brown and muted earth tones. Even the sky is that faded-out light blue of old denim.
Images are clean and sharp, and there is plenty of detail in the closeups—certainly enough to appreciate the texture of the fabrics the characters are wearing, such as the weave of Rafo’s sweater or the feel of Milo’s hat, or the grit and gravel of the road, and the scrubby and dusty Mexico landscape. There is also a scene in Marta’s diner where we get a wide shot where all the objects are in crisp, sharp focus. Even still, images felt a bit film-soft instead of razor sharp.
There isn’t much room for HDR’s wider color gamut to stretch its legs here, but we do get nice shadow detail that produces lifelike images, and some nice bright highlights from a campfire and bright lights.
My Marantz processor reported it was receiving a 5.1-channel PCM audio signal, which was then upmixed to my other speakers. There’s not much audio here to take advantage of any surround sound, with the vast majority of sounds coming from the front channels. The soundtrack does expand and open a bit with the sounds of wind, rustling leaves, and bird chirps, but dialogue is the star of this soundtrack and it is presented clearly in the center channel.
If you are a rabid fan of Eastwood’s directing style, then Cry Macho might be for you; however, I feel like The Marksman and News of the World are far more entertaining versions of the older-hero-rescuing-child road movie, with News having the added bonus of young Helena Zengel’s outstanding performance, which runs circles around Minett’s forced-feeling performance here.
Milo sums it up with, “I used to be a lot of things. But I’m not now.” For me, I think I’d prefer to remember Clint for the things he used to be rather than for this late entry.
Probably the most experienced writer on custom installation in the industry, John Sciacca is co-owner of Custom Theater & Audio in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, & is known for his writing for such publications as Residential Systems and Sound & Vision. Follow him on Twitter at @SciaccaTweets and at johnsciacca.com.