Cry Macho

At this point, Clint Eastwood's movies are like a nice, broken-in pair of sweatpants. They feel incredibly comfortable. As a filmmaker, Eastwood has no interest in being flashy. His economic, no-frills style indicates that he simply wants to tell a story in as straightforward a manner as possible. His latest, Cry Macho, is no exception. Not a whole lot happens in this movie, yet if you enjoy getting on Eastwood's wavelength, it's a very pleasant tale that's nice to get lost in for 105 minutes.

The actor plays Mike Milo, a former rodeo star-turned-horse breeder. His boss Howard (Dwight Yoakam) calls in a favor, asking Mike to venture down to Mexico and retrieve his 13-year-old son from his ex-wife. Howard believes the boy is being physically abused, so this seems like an appropriate time to stop being an absentee father. After a run-in with the ex, Mike does indeed find Rafo (Eduardo Minett). He's a rebellious kid who participates in cockfighting matches with his pet rooster Macho. Their efforts to get back to the border are hindered by automobile problems, among other things. For a time, they're waylaid in a small town where Mike develops a flirtation with a local bar owner, Marta (Natalia Traven).

That's the movie right there. If you're expecting car chases and action scenes as Mike and Rafo head back to the States, you won't really find any – at least, not any that last for more than a few seconds. Cry Macho isn't so much about what happens as it is about how the two main characters change. Rafo has to contend with mixed feelings about going to the father he barely knows. Mike, on the other hand, discovers that Mexico offers some things to feel good about, and since he hasn't felt good in a long time, that opens him up in ways he didn't anticipate.

In a sense, Cry Macho is a buddy comedy. Interactions between Mike and Rafo are often humorous. The very sight of Clint Eastwood bickering and bantering with a tween offers undeniable amusement. At the same time, the film is also another attempt by Eastwood to deconstruct his own image. It's no coincidence that the rooster is named Macho. Machismo is a recurring subject in the story. Mike appears to have realized over the years that trying to be overtly macho is a waste of time, that it amounts to little more than posturing. Now, at his advanced age, he's looking to be real.

That's where the movie hooks you. Appropriately, Cry Macho is not an action picture. You keep thinking that old-school Eastwood is going to whip out a Smith & Wesson, Dirty Harry-style. He never does. (The rooster literally gets more action.) Like his protagonist, Eastwood has lost interest in being macho onscreen. Showing how a man unexpectedly reinvents himself is far more interesting to him. Working with a nicely subdued screenplay by Nick Schenk and N. Richard Nash, he accomplishes that task in a way that's both entertaining and meaningful.

The performances are good across the board, with newcomer Eduardo Minett beautifully able to hold his own against his veteran co-star. Natalia Traven is terrific, as well, making Marta a gentle, compassionate woman who sees in Mike qualities he may not see in himself. Cry Macho is a minor-key Eastwood picture, but that's precisely how he wants it right now. We've seen him shooting guns, punching bad guys, and intimidating people. At age 91, it's time to wind down. With his sincere work as Mike Milo, this iconic screen hero lets us know that there's no shame in that.

out of four

Cry Macho is rated PG-13 for language and thematic elements. The running time is 1 hour and 44 minutes.