Clint Eastwood seemed ready to ride into the sunset, then came Cry Macho

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CRY MACHO ★★★★

(M) 104 minutes

Twenty years ago, Clint Eastwood seemed almost ready to ride off into the sunset. Instead, he’s continued directing and often starring in one “last film” after another – and for his rusted-on fans, it’s been quite something to witness the longest goodbye in American cinema.

Nobody has turned getting old into a project like Eastwood has, the weariness deepening while the swagger fades like a mirage, leaving him frailer, more exposed and more recognisably human. But still Clint, still the myth.

Clint Eastwood as Mike Milo and Eduardo Minett as Rafo, with his chicken Macho, in Cry Macho. 

Clint Eastwood as Mike Milo and Eduardo Minett as Rafo, with his chicken Macho, in Cry Macho. 

Cry Macho is loosely adapted from a 1975 novel by the late N Richard Nash (also credited as co-writer of the screenplay, along with repeat Eastwood collaborator Nick Schenk). But the result is a typically spare parable where everything refers back to Eastwood and to the screen persona he has sustained over so many years.

He plays Mike Milo, a former Texas rodeo rider coaxed into metaphorically saddling up one more time. Literally speaking, his mission is to drive down to Mexico on behalf of his boss, Howard (Dwight Yoakam), and retrieve Howard’s teenage son, Rafo (Eduardo Minett), from the clutches of the boy’s unscrupulous mother (Fernanda Urrejola).

Mike is reluctant, as always, but Howard insists he has the right man for the job. “You’re a real cowboy. He’ll listen to you.”

What does it mean, though, to be a real cowboy, or to be macho, as the title has it? Macho, incidentally, proves to be the name of Rafo’s beloved pet rooster that he enters in cockfighting tournaments. “I’m 91 years old, for Christ’s sake,” I can hear Eastwood muttering. “You think I’m gonna waste time being subtle?”