Clint Eastwood made his bones in the ’60s and ’70s with brutal, emotion-less dispensations of violence — by projecting a capability and willingness to drill the bad guys between the eyes without blinking an eye and certainly without giving it much thought. He wasn’t as much two-fisted as big-gunned, and he sure as hell blam-blammed a whole lot of guys during his “Man With No Name” meets Dirty Harry heyday, and with rightwing justifications, of course. “You fuck with me, you’ll pay the price.”
He was never anyone’s idea of a great or highly skilled actor, but he always knew how to deliver that silent, steaming-radiator thing and was certainly effective within his range. I think his Unforgiven performance (i.e., the snarly Bill Munny) was actually pretty close to great, partly because of (a) “helluva thing, killin’ a man,” “(b) “we all got it comin’, kid” and (c) how that final shoot-out scene draws upon our collective memory of the snarly guy he was in the Nixon, Ford and Carter eras.
But when we think of Eastwood we mainly sink into a soothing impression that took hold in the early to mid ’90s, which was when he suddenly became this exalted, almost mythical-level actor and director — one on hand with his aging, guilt-ridden secret service agent in Wolfgang Petersen‘s In The Line of Fire (’93) and on the other as the director who delivered the one-two punch of Unforgiven (’93) and The Bridges of Madison County (’95).
And at the same time his reputation as a likable, laid-back, salty-haired guy who always shot films fast and unfussy and who occasionally described himself as an Eisenhower Republican…all of that sunk in too. Even his briefly warming to Sarah Palin + talking to the empty chair thing…even that didn’t dispel the genial vibe.
And here we are on the 2018 home stretch and still no word of any Mule screenings, which reenforces suspicions that it’s probably nothing too special, even with Eastwood giving what may be his last performance…who knows?