Cert 15 Stars 3

Iconic Hollywood cowboy, Clint Eastwood, climbs back in the acting saddle in this entertaining real life crime drama, which is remarkably his 37th directorial feature.

The former Man With No Name reckoned he’d retired from acting after 2012’s woeful baseball drama, Trouble with the Curve, but you can’t keep a good man down, even at 88 years old.

And though the actor is noticeably and understandably less steady on his feet these days, he’s too canny to try and hide his age from the audience.

Directing in his typically no nonsense style, Eastwood immensely enjoys playing Earl, an anti-authoritarian octogenarian florist who becomes a ‘mule’, delivering drugs across the US for a Mexican cartel.

The first half of the film keeps the tone light and humorous, then gradually turns mournful and reflective as Earl realises very late in the day what’s important in life.

Never stepping outside his well-established comfort zone, Eastwood covers a lot of familiar territory including wide open vistas, the use of Country and Western songs, a jazz score, guns, bikers, and respect for the military.

Though he does include a poorly judged party scene where Eastwood the producer is indulging himself as an actor, at the films expense.

Eastwood’s real life daughter, Alison, plays his estranged screen daughter, Iris, but it would be a mistake to read the film being in any way biographical.

Poor Dianne Wiest is dependable and dignified as Earl’s ex- wife, in a role which requires the bare minimum of her skills. 

And in a role Eastwood would once have played himself, Bradley Cooper is a determined and coolly laconic DEA agent chasing the drug-running bad guys.

Clearly Cooper loves sharing the screen with his mentor, Eastwood, and their sharing a key scene feels very much the passing of a creative baton.

Having been the alpha male at Warner Bros. studio for 40 years, I suspect Eastwood has returned – in part – to publicly endorse co-star Cooper as his successor.

Especially as Eastwood was originally signed up to direct A Star Is Born, for which Cooper has just scooped up eight Oscar nominations at the upcoming Academy Awards.

Laurence Fishburne, Michael Pena and Andy García round out a strong supporting cast but it’s Clint’s film all the way, and though this isn’t prime or even vintage, Eastwood, his many fans – of which I’m most certainly one – will find plenty in here to enjoy.

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