Earl Stone (Clint Eastwood) is a veteran of the Korean War. After the war, he became interested in growing flowers, hybrid daylilies, and achieved great success in this: Earl periodically receives the main award at congresses of lovers of these flowers, the shop at Earl’s farm is flourishing. At the same time, Earl traveled a lot around the country, sharing his experience with other breeders, and he has never been fined for any traffic violations in his life.
Earl has a very bad relationship with his family. All his life, his work was in the first place, and his family was of little interest to him. He even managed not to come to the wedding of his daughter Iris (Alison Eastwood). And Earl’s ex-wife Mary (Dianne Wiest) does not want to communicate with him.
Some time passed, and since Earl basically ignored all these modern means of ordering flowers online, his business fell into decay, he could not repay the loan to the bank, and as a result, the bank took away the store and greenhouses from him, so that Earl was left with only the old – an old Ford truck.
Only his granddaughter Ginny (Taissa Farmiga) maintains a relationship with the old man. Once Earl came to his granddaughter for a rehearsal of her wedding, and one of the guests, a young Mexican guy, seeing that Earl was in distress, offered him a job. But first, the guy asked Earl about whether he had ever been detained and if he had any violations. Finding out that the old man is clean as glass, the guy explains what the essence of his new work is. He will just need to make one walk from point A to point B with a small load. Upon arrival, you should leave the car in the agreed place with the keys in the glove compartment, leave for an hour, then return, get the keys and money from the glove compartment – and go home.
Earl has a vague idea of what he is offered to do – he may be old, but he is definitely not a fool – but he has nothing to lose, and he agrees.
Of course, he transports drugs: Earl became a drug courier (in America it is called The Mule – mule) of the Mexican Sinaloa cartel and works for Don Laton (Andy Garcia).
A veteran old man on a truck, heaps of state stickers on the back of the truck, not a single ticket, even just for speeding – the old man does not arouse any suspicion among the police, so after a while he becomes the cartel’s main courier, gets the nickname El Tata (grandfather), earns very good money and even begins to be friends with Don Laton.
The film is based on a true story, which was once told by journalist Sam Dolnick in an article for The New York Times: it was called “90-year-old drug courier of the Sinaloa cartel”. The hero of the article was Leo Sharp, a hero of the Second World War, who was the most famous daylily breeder and on his farm, located near Michigan, created as many as 180 original hybrid varieties. At one point, Leo even planted a daylily in the White House garden at the invitation of the Bush administration.
Leo Sharp in his youth and old age
At the beginning of the 2000s, Leo Sharp’s business began to die: young competitors moved to the Internet and desolation reigned on Leo’s farm, where tourists had not been able to breathe before.
Sharpe was desperate, and then he accepted the offer of a representative of the Mexican cartel to work for them. Unlike what was shown in the film, Leo had to deliver goods from Mexico. And he did it perfectly: a handsome old veteran with all the documents, for which there were no violations, did not arouse the slightest suspicion among customs officers and policemen.
They began to trust him with more and more volumes, and they also began to use the grandfather (El Tata – his real nickname) for the reverse transfer of cash to Mexico.
And he worked in this way for ten years, while earning as much as one and a half million dollars. At the same time, Leo was friends with some of the American leaders of the drug network, and he even went with them to have fun in Hawaii.
All these years, he did not arouse any suspicions, but ABN special agent Jeff Moore approached him in much the same way as shown in the film: he was handed over by another informant dealer and cartel accountant, Ramon Ramos.
Leo Sharp was arrested on October 21, 2011, at the time of his arrest he was 87 years old.
Arrest of Leo Sharpe
In general, he was threatened with 10 to 17 years for this glorious activity for the benefit of the Mexican drug cartel, but Leo had an excellent lawyer who put pressure on the client’s glorious military past, but it’s clear that they couldn’t help but imprison him: Sharp should have to pay half a million dollars and received three years in prison. In his last word, Leo repented of his deed and said that three years was a death sentence for him. However, after a year of imprisonment he was released for health reasons, he was released and lived to be 92 years old.
Leo Sharp in front of the courthouse
Clint Eastwood was very interested in this story, but he did not want to make a film about Leo Sharp: Clint simply used the plot to tell his story, which is why the main character is called Earl Stone and he is a veteran of the Korean War, not World War II.
Eastwood’s tale of an aged but highly successful drug runner is inextricably linked to Earl’s story of family problems and how slowly and creakingly he resolves these problems. (In this, perhaps, there are some confessional moments for Eastwood himself, who, as you know, does not have very good relationships in his own family. However, Earl’s daughter here was played by Eastwood’s daughter, Alison.)
Also, Earl’s personality is somewhat reminiscent of another Eastwood character – Walt Kowalski from “Gran Torino”: Walt is also a veteran of the Korean War, he has a bad relationship with children, he does not like the strange new world that Walt does not fit into, he is defiantly politically incorrect.
Earl is the same. He despises the new generation because they can’t do anything without consulting Google, because they don’t let go of their phones, and because they can’t do much at all, according to Earl. He also does not accept all this political correctness and bans on expressing himself the way he expressed himself all his life, so the phrase “I’ll help you in your Negro affairs” (I’ll help you negroes out) sounds in the film, for which some critics tried to crucify Eastwood , but Clint will crucify anyone himself, so the critics shut up, although one of them still tried to commit suicide in protest.
In the film, Eastwood for some reason – I don’t know, intentionally or unintentionally – did not take a steam bath in accordance with the accuracy of reality in terms of drug trafficking. In “Drug Courier,” the grandfather only carries drugs from one state to another (Mexico is only mentioned when Earl arrives at Don Laton’s estate). But really – what’s the problem with transporting anything from one state to another? There are no borders, no customs, no inspections. The real mules are the couriers who bring drugs to the States from Mexico, where they are produced. And which ones bring cash from the States to Mexico. Here there is the border, customs and selective inspections. And it is there that the courier is most easily caught. And that’s how the real Leo Sharp rode.
But for Eastwood, apparently, it is not at all the main thing – to show how drug trafficking works in general. For him, the character himself, whom he plays, is important, and he travels from Illinois to Mexico or to Dallas – this no longer plays any role.
Clint played Earl just fine: he, apparently, himself understood that no one but him would pull this role the way he needed it as a director, so Eastwood broke his promise not to act as an actor again, which he gave after filming Gran Torino ”, and it’s very good that he did it after all!
The Eastwood director somehow “trolls” the audience, and only the Eastwood actor can demonstrate this in all its splendor. Eastwood is a Hollywood icon both as an actor and as a director, although his real directorial fame came after The Unforgiven, which he shot at 62, and then his directorial career only gained momentum: after that, in a fairly long list of excellent films (passing like “Train to Paris” he had extremely rarely) he had two films – “Million Dollar Baby” and “Gran Torino”, which entered the Top 250 Movies of All Time on IMDB.
And he can not be shy and not be afraid that he will be accused of something there – but he did not care about any accusations. And in fact, everyone forgives him, even in the current world of liberal leftists who are completely fucked up. How Tarantino was forgiven for something that no one else would have been forgiven for. But Eastwood – he is, he can call a spade a spade, he can show people as they are.
The film “Drug Courier” is not about a drug courier at all. It is about a man of a passing era, who by the end realized that he had set priorities incorrectly in life, and who is trying to do something about it, to somehow fix something. He tries clumsily, but sincerely, and he starts to succeed. The scenes with the ex-wife are staged very well: it is clear that Mary is mortally offended by him (there is an involuntary and very sad pun in this), but at the same time it is clear that she sees in him the same Earl whom she loved very much, so he does not care to her not indifferent.
There are also certain intersections with the excellent Breaking Bad series, in which a humble chemistry teacher with cancer began to cook the drug methamphetamine (meth) to help his family, and as a result began to work for the Mexican drug cartel, and all the millions he earned went to dust . But it clearly states why Walter started doing it: just to feel alive. And Earl started doing the same thing, just to feel alive.
According to the film, Earl somehow attaches the money he has earned there: pays for a bar for his granddaughter’s wedding, raises his favorite bar for war veterans from the ruins, where they play polka, but this is not all about money. He just wants to feel that someone else needs him.
Mary was wonderfully played by actress Dianne Wiest (who, by the way, won two Oscars for Best Supporting Actress in Hannah and Her Sisters and Bullets Over Broadway). Very simply, without any theatricality, but sincerely and authentically.
Alison Eastwood was great as Iris. She showed well how Iris went from complete rejection of her father, who literally betrayed her, not bothering to come to her wedding, to a gradual rapprochement with him, when she began to see that he had changed noticeably.
By the way, Taissa Farmiga, who played Earl’s granddaughter, is not the daughter of the wonderful actress of Ukrainian origin Vera Farmiga, as I first thought, but her younger sister. Played very well, loved it.
The bandit-Mexican part of “Drug Courier”, of course, is shown in a completely buffoonish way. Seemingly perfect beasts, the Mexican “torpedoes” of the cartel, quickly break into a smile, communicating with El Tata, and Don Laton (with all the pleasure of seeing Andy Garcia again) is like shooting me as the head of a drug cartel (purely by type).
And Eastwood doesn’t stop trolling the audience: there is a funny scene when Don Laton invites Earl to a party at his estate and there the old man is courted by two spectacular mercantilely responsible girls, and not one of them leaves without a rest, – old Clint pulls out with might and main, and it’s very cool. But this is quite in line with Eastwood’s approach to this film: he does not need credibility with these cartels, he is talking about absolutely not about it.
The line with ABN agent Colin Bates (Bradley Cooper), who is developing a drug trafficking line from Mexico with his assistant agent Treviño (Michael Peña) under the wise guidance of the special agent-in-chief (Laurence Fishburne), is quite worthy, interesting (and with a real story, it somehow, but correlated), and there Eastwood made a funny episode of Earl’s conversation with Colin in a cafe: they talk about all sorts of family matters, and none of them knows who his interlocutor is.
Another thing is that here, against the background of the amazingly charismatic 88-year-old (at that time) Eastwood, all these excellent actors are somehow lost. They play well, with dignity, but they themselves understand this – there is somehow a clash of literally two different centuries, where Eastwood still manages to win – as an anachronism, which is not yet an anachronism at all, and in his own years – and this is very cool !
Good movie, I really enjoyed it. Yes, it is clear that it rests only and exclusively on Clint Eastwood. Any other person who tried to make such a film would have suffered a crushing fiasco: either this film would simply not have been noticed, or the director would simply have been crucified and spat in his direction for a long time.
But Eastwood – he can afford it, which is valuable. And the fact that at 88 he produces such a cool film, and even with himself in the lead role, and two years later he will shoot the film “The Case of Richard Jewell”, which completely amazed me and was also based on a true story, is just something that’s amazing! “These were not people,” as Athos said in The Three Musketeers or some sequel, “they were demigods.”
No, don’t misunderstand me, in this case it’s not to say that this is a really amazing movie. But he is really very good, and he is absolutely inextricably linked with the amazing personality of this amazing person – Clint Eastwood. Who is still able to surprise at 88, and at 90. I don’t know where such people come from! But they are!
PS Still, it’s so cool when in these films you begin to understand well what they are talking about in Spanish, which is usually not translated (rarely – with English subtitles) …
Drug Courier / The Mule movie meaning
Clint Eastwood, Bradley Cooper, Laurence Fishburne, Michael Peña, Dianne Wiest, Andy Garcia, Alison Eastwood, Taissa Farmiga, Ignacio Serricio, Lauren Dean
Budget: $50 million, Global gross
Crime drama, USA, 2018, 116 min.