I regret to note that Clint Eastwood‘s Cry Macho (HB0 Max), an amiable road movie about an old white guy (Clint) and a Mexican teenager (Eduardo Minett) on a long journey, is a little too familiar and laid-back and maybe even too meditative for its own good. And it’s weirdly written and clumsily handled here and there.

On the other hand it’s about values and warmth and home-cooked tacos and treating horses and other animals with kindness and slow dancing in the cantina. It’s a nice movie, an okay one…it’s mostly fine. I know — I just said it’s under-energized, and now I’m saying it’s mildly okay. Who am I? What am I? I don’t know what to feel or think about this film, but I wish it had been more than just another “getting to know and like you” road movie. Tougher or craftier or plottier…something.

And the theme that eventually seeps through during the second half of Clint’s film, about macho behavior being over-rated and all…I’m sorry but this feels like a so-whatter. The machismo or toxic-male factor has been pretty much debunked, deballed and pushed aside for the last…what, 20 or 25 or 30 years? Sensitivity, listening to people, offering them basic respect, turning the other cheek if at all possible…that’s been the basic rule for some time now, or at least where I live.

Yes, Cry Macho is minor Eastwood. It doesn’t gun the motor — it cruises. You could even say it idles at times. But it’s a gentle and elegant film in some respects, particularly during the second act when Clint’s Mike Milo and the kid, travelling from Mexico to a big ranch in Texas owned by Minett’s dad (Dwight Yoakum), stay for a few days at a little cantina and horse-stable business run by 50ish Marta (Natalia Traven), who takes a shine to the 80ish Mike. (Let’s be generous and accept the notion that he’s younger than the actual Clint and might be able to…uhm, well, “perform”.)

There’s no avoiding the fact that Clint’s voice sounds frail and a bit weak. The guy was 89 or 90 when they shot the film, and he doesn’t look or sound much younger. Was it only 13 years ago when Gran Torino came out and people were saying “wow, Clint’s getting old but he’s still a tough and gritty old bird.” Eastwood was 78 or so when he made that excellent film. And here we are in 2021. Time marches on and cuts no one a break.

Except in the world of Cry Macho. There’s a scene early on when Clint is visiting Minett’s mother at her Mexico City home. She’s clearly a bad egg, but the movie suddenly loses its mind when she suddenly comes on to him…an alcoholic 40something femme fatale suddenly wants an 80ish geezer to fuck her? Then he turns her down and she feels insulted? What’s going on here?

Later on the kid and his pet rooster, Macho, stow away in Clint’s SUV and Clint doesn’t spot him? Kinda ridiculous.

Remember that scene in The Vikings when Tony Curtis‘s hunting bird attacks Kirk Douglas and does some serious damage? And the scene in Once Upon A Time in Hollywood when Brad Pitt‘s fat ugly dog attacks Charles “Tex” Watson and saves the day? A Mexican bad guy suffers a similar fate, only in this instance the attacking animal is Macho, who’s been toughened by cockfighting in Mexico City.

I kinda like that now and then Clint prefers to camp on the ground and shit outdoors rather than crash in a motel. Then again Yoakum has given him a bundle of travel money by so why camp? He’s against showers and pillows and mattresses?

My big question: why did so many others (including Arnold Schwarzenegger) want to make this film over the years? It’s okay but nothing special, right? Then what was big attraction going back to the 80s or even before? There had to be SOMETHING on the page that seemed dramatically irresistible.

Nick Schenk‘s screenplay is based upon Richard Nash’s 1975 novel. A friend who read the book way back when says “it had more depth than the film…a nice Steinbeck quality in the prose and dialogue, as well as more suspense. Therefore all the interest from past, older leading men was based on the book, not this particular screenplay adaptation.”

“Ideally, Robert Mitchum may have been the best choice…a reversal of his Night of the Hunter persona, an ogre stalking children.”