Cry Macho – Clint Eastwood stars as the final cowboy in this stark, elegiac Western.
Clint Eastwood is more than an actor at 91; he’s an institution, a rock, a foundation stone. Cry Macho, a film of such total fundamental Clint-ness that it feels in some ways like a summary of his whole career, as well as a requiem for it, carries that granite squint — and all its history — with it. The plot itself is typical Western pulp, with banditos, lost dreams, and femme fatales galore. However, watching him play the cowboy once more feels like its own form of communal connected remembering: a bygone image of masculinity whose template he not only embodied on screen for decades, but also half-invented in the first place.
The first thing to know about Cry is that it has a nearly 50-year history, with stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Roy Scheider, and even Clint Eastwood, who passed on the part in the late 1980s. The second thing to know is that Macho is also the name of a chicken, especially a treasured rooster held by the 12-year-old child Eastwood’s Mike Milo, a washed-up Texas ranch hand and rodeo cowboy, has been dispatched to Mexico City to retrieve. Though it’s more akin to a state-sanctioned kidnapping: Howard (Dwight Yoakam), his old boss, have not seen his estranged son in decades.
But he wants to take him away from his violent mother, and Mike owes him more than one favour. Mike was a championship rider until he injured his back and became addicted to drugs and drink. When Mike arrives, the boy’s enraged, intoxicated mother (Fernanda Urrejola) informs Mike that her son is a hopeless case: a vicious hooligan who can’t be tamed. Rafo (Eduardo Minet), on the other hand, appears to be a forlorn boy who adores his rooster when he meets him in a back-alley cockfight. As a result, the two set off on their trek back to the border, where they encounter a slew of nasty but always surmountable obstacles. Will the crusty bronco and the juvenile delinquent form a bond? Is it possible for a horse to poop hay?
Eastwood’s tone as a director is almost primordially basic; the convoluted moral calculations and delineated character arcs of The Unforgiven, American Sniper, or even Gran Torino are not for Macho. He indulges in some ludicrous fantasies as an actor, too: Hardened criminals quiver at Mike’s right punch, while women can’t seem to stop flinging themselves at his feet in a frenzy of sexual desire. But there’s a tenderness to his relationships with Rafo, and there’s something really moving about watching him sleep on a desert floor with his ten-gallon hat in his lap, or drive down a sandy road with Macho following close behind. Mike is a guy from another era: He is a lone wolf remnant of a world that once was, and which will most certainly vanish when he passes away.