Despite its tried and true formula and undeniable star power, “Cry Macho” falls far below expectations
A washed-up has-been, played by a seasoned veteran of the silver screen, teaches a young boy in the midst of a family crisis what it really means to be a man, and hilarious shenanigans ensue amidst heartwarming emotional development. Sounds like an instant classic, right? After all, the formula worked for Secondhand Lions, and similar story lines have served as the basis for countless other successful Hollywood flicks. With a star like Clint Eastwood serving as director and lead actor, you’d think that not much could go wrong. Unfortunately, however, the creative team behind Cry Macho relied a bit too much on Eastwood’s star power. The lighthearted western / road trip comedy may entertain a few Eastwood fans who have nothing better to watch, but overall, the flick leaves much to be desired.
Cry Macho is based on N. Richard Nash’s 1975 novel of the same name. The story was adapted for the screen by Nick Schenk, whose previous writing credits include The Mule, Gran Torino and episodes of Narcos. Eastwood plays a former rodeo star, Mike Milo, whose tardiness and general complacency gets him fired from his job as a ranch hand within the first five minutes of the movie. A year later, he runs into his former boss, (Dwight Yoakam), who asks him for a huge favor: to go save his 13-year-old son, Rafa (Eduardo Minett), from his abusive mother in Mexico City. Being the witty fellow that he is, Mike locates Rafa with no trouble - but the journey back home to Texas proves to be a bumpy ride. However, the two discover that they have a lot to learn from each other, and they both reevaluate their idea of what it means to be “macho.”
Cry Macho tells a simplistic story filled with trite universal themes. A strong script, solid performances, and well-timed jokes could have turned this overdone tale into a memorable and moderately successful flick. But unfortunately, Cry Macho lacks all three of those items. For starters, the dialogue is stiff, direct and unnatural, and the cast adds little to no supplementary emotion as they trudge their way through painfully expository lines. Apart from the occasional expletives and adult-themed jokes, the dialogue sounds like part of a bad elementary school play. The characters speak their thoughts aloud rather than acting them out and punctuate every significant action sequence by stating the obvious. I found myself wondering if the dialogue might sound more natural in an old Western with a stronger cast, since almost every line is either melodramatic or doused with Leave-It-To-Beaver cheeriness. But even then, the film would need some kind of overall gimmick to make its rough dialogue work.
Then, there’s the problem of the performances. A good performance can certainly save a weak script, but other than Clint Eastwood being Clint Eastwood, the cast of Cry Macho doesn’t add anything extra to the story. Natalia Traven gives the most solid performance in the film as Marta, a kind diner owner who helps Mike and Rafa on their journey. Although her role as the stereotypical stubborn-minded matriarch doesn’t require much from her, Traven seems genuinely comfortable in front of the camera and adds dimension to her character with seemingly natural emotions. The rest of the cast, however, can't seem to find their emotional footing. When Rafa’s father barks instructions at Mike about how to get his son safely across the border, he might as well be putting in a complicated grocery order. Eduardo Minett is natural enough in happy or humorous scenes, but he can’t quite channel the anger and hopelessness needed for the more emotional parts of the story.
To its credit, Cry Macho eventually finds its rhythm. About a third of the way into the flick, it starts to feel less like a bad elementary school play and more like a low-budget made-for-TV movie. Once Mike and Rafa start their road trip, there’s less spoon-fed dialogue and more nuanced conversations. Cry Macho isn’t a laugh-out-loud movie, mostly because the jokes are undermined by poorly timed delivery and questionable editing. However, the movie does warrant a few chuckles here and there. Because of its stiff dialogue, I wouldn’t say that Cry Macho is an “easy” watch - it’s not the kind of movie that allows you to just sit back, relax and watch the story unfold. But it does get easier to watch along the way, once all the narrative information is in place.
Eastwood has definitely made a number of hits in the latter part of his decades-long career, but sadly, Cry Macho isn’t one of them. Perhaps there’s something special about seeing this cinematic legend step out of a pickup truck while sporting worn-out cowboy boots as a soothing country song plays in the opening shots of the film - but once the dialogue gets going, the excitement dies. So, if you want to see this Hollywood star work his magic in a contemporary flick, maybe put on Million Dollar Baby or Trouble with the Curve and skip out on Cry Macho.
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