The Idiosyncratist will continue to write occasionally about films, but not on a weekly basis.
“Cry Macho” is based on a 1975 novel that was based on a screenplay that did not sell. The story had been kicking around the film industry for decades until Clint Eastwood, now 91, took it up. He acted, directed and produced this movie.
In it, Eastwood plays Mike Milo, a former cowboy and rodeo star whose life has been marked by several bumps. He has a thorny relationship with a Texas rancher, Howard Polk (Dwight Yoakum in a cowboy hat and big gray topcoat), who asks him to return a favor.
Polk’s 13-year-old son, Rafael, is with his mother in Mexico City, and Polk wants the boy back.
“Take him. Take him if you can find him. He is a monster,” Polk tells Milo. “He hates his father, he hates me. Good luck. You’ll need it.”
There are laws in the US and Mexico about child custody, but nothing is made of these in the story. Eastwood gets in his car and goes to find the boy. He meets the mother, a less than admirable woman who shares the father’s opinion of their son. But she is adamant that, “He is mine, and he stays.” She also drops a hint about Rafael’s interest in cockfighting.
Minutes later, Milo finds Rafael (Eduardo Minnett) with his rooster, Macho. (By the way, Mexico City’s population in 1979, the year when the movie was set, was 12.5 million.)
Milo explains that Rafo’s father wants him back and that the father has a large ranch with many cows and horses. This convinces the boy that he’d like to go live with his dad.
In fact, Rafael is a more appealing character than either of his parents, as is Milo, the old cowboy. The two travel many dirt roads — in fact, paved highways have been common in Mexico for decades — on their way north. Occasionally pursued by his mother’s henchmen and sometimes by Federales, Milo demonstrates he can still throw a hard punch. Then, further down the road, their car is stolen.
The upshot of all this is that Milo and Rafo are stuck in a small town with a lesser car. They meet up with a nice woman, a widowed grandmother who welcomes them and gives them a place to stay. Milo demonstrates some of his tricks — breaking a wild mustang, treating sick animals, conversing in sign language. He also teaches Rafo how to handle and ride a horse.
This is the whole point of the movie, of course. Rafo is not the rotten kid his parents think he is. He enjoys the the conversation and company of an older man who shows him how honorable men behave.
This is not Eastwood’s finest movie. Its action moments are minimal, and there are plot holes. But its gentle sincerity is not unwelcome at a moment when we have thousands of aimless young men floundering on our cities’ streets.