Review: CRY MACHO, Clint Eastwood's Ballad of Forgotten Cowboys and Lost Boys
Apparently, over three decades ago, Cry Macho crossed Clint Eastwood’s desk. He decided to pass on it because at the time, he felt he was too young to properly tell the story of an old cowboy whose best days are behind him. Had he chosen to make the film, it might not have been as poignant as it is today.
At 91 years of age, Eastwood is a genuine icon and a remnant of Hollywood’s studio system. Like most actors of his generation, he started his career in B-movies (Revenge of the Creature, Tarantula). He didn’t find success until he starred as Rowdy Yates in the popular television series, Rawhide.
From there, he teamed up with Sergio Leone to make a trilogy of classic “Spaghetti” westerns (A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly). It wasn’t until his fruitful collaborations with director Don Siegel that he became a bona fide box office draw, which catapulted him into helming his first picture, the psychological thriller, Play Misty for Me.
After that 1971 feature, he began to take on more projects where he successfully pulled double duty in front of and behind the camera. Fifty years later, he is still proving to be a relevant voice in cinema.
His latest effort, Cry Macho (based on the 1975 novel of the same name by author N. Richard Nash), is a familiar tale of experience vs naivete. In Eastwood’s hands, however, it becomes more than a cliched logline. Instead, he elevates the story to a treatise on the disenfranchisement of today’s elderly amidst a society that reveres youth.
Eastwood’s Mike Milo is a relic of the past, an aging rodeo star who, after a career-ending injury, turns to pain meds and booze to get through his days. No longer relevant, he is a forgotten cowboy struggling to hold on to an existence that has clearly left him behind.
After getting fired as a horse trainer for his longtime friend, rancher Howard Polk (Dwight Yoakam), Mike is faced with the prospect of losing what remaining life he has managed to carve out for himself. Experiencing a sudden change of heart, Polk decides to give Milo one more chance.
This time, he rehires him to retrieve his teenage son, Raphael “Rafo” (Eduardo Minett) from his vindicative ex-wife, Leta (Fernanda Urrejola) in Mexico City. Of course, Mike has no interest in this job, but, after hearing that the boy is being abused, he changes his mind and embarks on the journey to bring Rafo back home to Texas.
After thwarting a potentially dangerous situation with Leta (Fernanda Urrejola) and her henchman Aurelio (Horatio Garcia Rojas), Milo tracks down his soon-to-be charge at a local cockfight. This is where we get introduced to an integral member of the cast, Rafo’s protective rooster, Macho. The idea of appearing strong and not weak is extremely important to Rafo, who believes that this is what it takes to be considered a man.
Despite getting off on the wrong foot with the headstrong child and his pet, Mike is able to convince Rafo to accompany him to the U.S. to live with his father. The pair have more than their fair share of adventures. There is even a bit of romance, with Mike courting a widow named Marta (Natalia Traven) along the way.
In the hands of a less-experienced creative, Cry Macho would end up being your typical 'buddy' picture: two non-compatible personalities thrown together to learn lessons from each other. Nick Schenk and N. Richard Nash’s screenplay is the perfect roadmap for Eastwood’s notorious laidback directing style, allowing him free reign to tell a story without having to rely on fast-paced action to pique audience interest. The movie unfurls at a leisurely tempo, allowing viewers to become invested in the characters’ individual journeys.
Mike’s passion for living is reignited through his association with Rafo. No longer an “irrelevant” member of society, as so many people are led to believe after they hit a certain age, he finds his “mojo” again. Rafo, the lost boy who was obsessed with being tough or “macho” all the time evolves into a confident young man capable of accepting his vulnerability.
Is this Clint Eastwood’s best film to date? No, but it is the most heartfelt. If you are looking for his typical, gruff on-screen persona, you will see very little of it in Cry Macho. Instead, you will see an actor at the top of his game who can still carry a picture after six decades in the business.
Cry Macho is currently playing in theaters and is streaming on HBO Max until October. 17.
- Clint Eastwood
- Nick Schenk
- N. Richard Nash
- Clint Eastwood
- Dwight Yoakam
- Fernanda Urrejola