The Mule (2018 film)

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The Mule
The mule poster.png
Theatrical release poster
Directed byClint Eastwood
Produced by
  • Clint Eastwood
  • Tim Moore
  • Kristina Rivera
  • Jessica Meier
  • Dan Friedkin
  • Bradley Thomas
Screenplay byNick Schenk
Based on"The Sinaloa Cartel's 90-Year-Old Drug Mule"
by Sam Dolnick
Music byArturo Sandoval
CinematographyYves Bélanger
Edited byJoel Cox
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release date
  • December 14, 2018 (2018-12-14) (United States)
Running time
116 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$50 million[1]
Box office$94.9 million[1]

The Mule is a 2018 American crime film produced and directed by Clint Eastwood, who also plays the lead role. The screenplay, by Nick Schenk, is based on The New York Times article "The Sinaloa Cartel's 90-Year-Old Drug Mule" by Sam Dolnick, which recounts the true story of Leo Sharp, a World War II veteran in his 80s who became a drug courier for the Sinaloa Cartel.

Along with Eastwood, the film stars Bradley Cooper, Laurence Fishburne, Michael Peña, Dianne Wiest, and Andy García. It is Eastwood's first acting project since 2012's Trouble with the Curve, and his first starring role in a film directed by him since 2008's Gran Torino. Filming began in June 2018, taking place in Atlanta and Augusta, Georgia.

The Mule was released in the United States on December 14, 2018, by Warner Bros. Pictures. It has grossed over $94 million and received mixed reviews from critics, who called it "poignant and charming" and praised Eastwood's performance, but also noted the lack of true dramatic heft.[2]


Earl Stone is a 90-year-old horticulturist and Korean War veteran who is facing financial ruin and is estranged from his family. Desperate for money, he becomes a "mule" transporting cocaine through Illinois for a Mexican drug cartel. Facing little suspicion due to his age, race, spotless criminal history and strict adherence to driving laws, Earl is soon trusted with huge amounts of drugs and paid equally large amounts of cash. With the money he obtains from drug-running, he pays for renovations of the local VFW Post and his granddaughter's wedding and education. He becomes friendly with the cartel members, who call him Tata ("grandfather").

Meanwhile, a Drug Enforcement Administration task force is narrowing in on the cartel's deliveries to Chicago. Tensions within the cartel erupt when a power-hungry lieutenant assassinates the boss, and subsequently demands Earl be kept under tighter control. In the middle of a large cocaine shipment, Earl learns his ex-wife is gravely ill. He postpones the drug delivery to make peace with his ex-wife before her death, which provokes the cartel's ire. He resumes the delivery as the DEA and the cartel close in on him.




DEA Special Agent Jeff Moore, who arrested 87-year-old Leo Sharp in 2011, was interviewed by The New York Times regarding the investigation into Sharp, the world's oldest and most prolific drug mule. The rights to the subsequent article "The Sinaloa Cartel's 90-Year-Old Drug Mule," written by Sam Dolnick,[3] were sold to Imperative Entertainment in 2014.

Imperative hired Ruben Fleischer to direct and produce the film.[4] In February 2015, Nick Schenk was hired to adapt the article into a film screenplay.[5]

In January 2018, it was revealed that the film would be titled The Mule, and that Clint Eastwood would direct the film instead, as well as produce and star, for Warner Bros. Pictures and Imperative.[6] Producers include Eastwood for Malpaso Productions along with Tim Moore, Kristina Rivera and Jessica Meier, and Dan Friedkin and Bradley Thomas for Imperative Entertainment. Fleischer executive produced.[7]


In January 2018, Eastwood was set to play the role of Earl Stone, based on Leo Sharp, a 90 year-old who is working as a drug courier for a Mexican cartel.[6] In May 2018, Bradley Cooper joined the cast to play DEA agent Colin Bates, based on agent Jeff Moore, who is chasing Stone, and along with Cooper, Lobo Sebastian also joined the film.[8][9] In June 2018, Dianne Wiest and Michael Peña joined the film's cast to play Earl Stone's ex-wife and Bates' fellow DEA agent, respectively.[10] More cast were also confirmed, including Laurence Fishburne as a DEA special agent in charge, Alison Eastwood as Stone's daughter, Taissa Farmiga as Stone's granddaughter, and Ignacio Serricchio as Stone's cartel handler.[7] That same month, Loren Dean joined the cast of the film.[11] In July 2018, Victor Rasuk was cast, and Manny Montana was also confirmed.[12]


Principal photography on the film began on June 4, 2018 in Atlanta, Rome, and Augusta, Georgia.[10][7] It was also shot in Las Cruces, New Mexico.[7]


The film was released on December 14, 2018 in the United States[13] and will be released in January 25, 2019 in the United Kingdom.[14] It premiered on December 10, 2018 in Westwood, California.[15]


Box office[edit]

In the United States and Canada, The Mule was released alongside Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Mortal Engines, and was projected to gross $15–18 million from 2,588 theaters in its opening weekend.[16][15] It made $5.9 million on its first day and $17.5 million over the weekend, finishing second at the box office and marking the third-best opening of Eastwood's acting career, after Gran Torino and Space Cowboys.[17] It made $9.5 million in its second weekend, finishing fifth, and then $4.9 million on Christmas Day.[18]

Critical response[edit]

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 66% based on 101 reviews, with an average rating of 6/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "A flawed yet enjoyable late-period Eastwood entry, The Mule stubbornly retains its footing despite a few missteps on its occasionally unpredictable path."[19] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 58 out of 100, based on 33 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[20] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A−" on an A+ to F scale, while those at PostTrak gave it four out of five stars.[17]

David Ehrlich of IndieWire gave the film a "B+" and called it Eastwood's best in over 25 years, writing that "this soulful and deeply satisfying film — a fitting swansong, if ever there was one — makes a compelling argument that change is always possible, and that the path we're on is never as narrow as the highway makes it look."[21] In a middling review, Peter Debruge of Variety wrote, "It's a great true story, colorfully told by Sam Dolnick in The New York Times and somewhat watered down for the screen by Nick Schenk, the still-green screenwriter who got incredibly lucky when Eastwood agreed to direct and star in his early spec, Gran Torino. And there's obviously no one better to embody someone like Leo Sharp — the real-life criminal whose name has been changed to Earl Stone for the movie — than Eastwood, who can play stubborn, battle-scarred, casually racist characters in his sleep."[22]


  1. ^ a b "The Mule (2018)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 15, 2019.
  2. ^ Fujitani, Ryan (December 14, 2018). "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Is Certified Fresh". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 13, 2018.
  3. ^ Dolnick, Sam (June 11, 2014). "The Sinaloa Cartel's 90-Year-Old Drug Mule". The New York Times. Retrieved June 15, 2014.
  4. ^ Yamato, Jen (November 4, 2014). "Ruben Fleischer To Direct Movie About 90-Year-Old Drug Mule". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved June 4, 2018.
  5. ^ Sneider, Jeff (February 24, 2015). "'The Judge' Writer Nick Schenk to Adapt Elderly Drug Mule Tale for 'Zombieland' Director (Exclusive)". TheWrap. Retrieved June 4, 2018.
  6. ^ a b Sneider, Jeff (January 30, 2018). "Clint Eastwood Circling 90-Year-Old Drug Courier Tale "The Mule" at Warner Bros., Imperative (Exclusive)". The Tracking Board. Retrieved June 4, 2018.
  7. ^ a b c d "Clint Eastwood's "The Mule" Begins Production". Business Wire. June 4, 2018. Retrieved June 4, 2018.
  8. ^ Kroll, Justin (May 18, 2018). "Bradley Cooper to Star With Clint Eastwood in 'The Mule' (Exclusive)". Variety. Retrieved June 4, 2018.
  9. ^ N'Duka, Amanda (May 24, 2018). "Lobo Sebastian Cast In 'The Mule' & 'Words On Bathroom Walls'; Martha Kelly Joins 'Corporate Animals'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved June 4, 2018.
  10. ^ a b Kit, Borys (June 4, 2018). "Dianne Wiest, Michael Pena Join Clint Eastwood's 'The Mule' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved June 4, 2018.
  11. ^ Busch, Anita (June 11, 2018). "Loren Dean Joins 'The Mule'; Camrus Johnson Boards 'The Sun Is Also A Star'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved June 11, 2018.
  12. ^ Pedersen, Erik; D'Alessandro, Anthony (July 17, 2018). "Victor Rasuk Joins Clint Eastwood's 'The Mule'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved July 17, 2018.
  13. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (September 27, 2018). "Clint Eastwood's 'The Mule' Kicks Its Way Onto December Release Calendar". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved September 27, 2018.
  14. ^ "'The Mule' is in UK Cinemas January 2019". Retrieved October 8, 2018.
  15. ^ a b D'Alessandro, Anthony (December 11, 2018). "Look Out, Here Comes 'The Spider-Verse': Sony Animation Title Eyes $30M-$35M Opening – Box Office Preview". Retrieved December 11, 2018.
  16. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (November 21, 2018). "'Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse' Swinging To $30M-$40M Start – Early Tracking". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved November 21, 2018.
  17. ^ a b D'Alessandro, Anthony (December 16, 2018). "'Spider-Verse' Raises $35M+ As 'The Mule' Kicks Up $17M+ In Pre-Christmas Period, But 'Mortal Engines' Breaks Down With $7M+". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved December 17, 2018.
  18. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (December 23, 2018). "'Aquaman' Grabs $67M+ Weekend For $72M+ Cume; 2018 B.O. Poised To Pass $11.4B For New Record – Early Sunday Update". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved December 23, 2018.
  19. ^ "The Mule (2018)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved January 1, 2019.
  20. ^ "The Mule (2018) reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved January 1, 2019.
  21. ^ David Ehrlich (December 12, 2018). "'The Mule' Review: Clint Eastwood's Best Movie in More than 25 Years". IndieWire. Penske Business Media. Retrieved December 13, 2018.
  22. ^ Peter Debruge (December 12, 2018). "Film Review: Clint Eastwood in 'The Mule'". Retrieved December 13, 2018.

External links[edit]