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Cry Macho Is a Western With a Difference

1 16 0
23.09.2021

In 1981, screenwriter Sonia Chernus reviewed a script acquired by the Malpaso Company, the film production house Clint Eastwood co-founded in 1967. The brutal violence and profanity of the script, titled The Cut-Whore Killings, galled Chernus. “We would have been far better off not to have accepted trash like this piece of inferior work,” she wrote to her boss. Undaunted, Eastwood read the script. It was indeed violent, and profane. He liked it. But he didn’t want to make it yet. “I took the script,” he told the American Film Institute in 2009, “and put it in a drawer. I figured, ‘Maybe I should be just a little bit older.’”

It wasn’t until 1992 that The Cut-Whore Killings was released, as Unforgiven. Eastwood, older and perhaps even wiser, played William Munny, a widowed Wild West outlaw, dragged out of retirement for one last job. He served as the film’s producer, director, star, and, arguably, subject. The film interrogated the sort of ready-made macho myths that Eastwood, via his own screen presence as A-list cowboy and big-screen outlaw, had come to embody.

Unforgiven was regarded as a consummate statement. The film won Best Picture at the 1993 Academy Awards. Eastwood also took Best Director honors (in characteristic understatement, he received his trophy and cooed, “This is pretty good. This is alright”). Its stark, unsparing, and wholly untitillating depictions of violence and self-sufficiency were ripostes to the body of work amassed by an actor-director-producer whose name is literally an anagram for “Old West Action.” Once a brave cowboy—or San Francisco police inspector—beholden to his own studied moral code, here Clint Eastwood was shivering in the rain, belting back moonshine, and shooting a helpless man sprawled on the floor. Unforgiven critiqued the enduring appeal of the Western genre, and so the foundational myths of America itself. More than another “revisionist Western,” it was the last word. Eastwood would never again saddle a horse on-screen. Until now.

Based on N. Richard Nash’s 1975 novel, Cry Macho sees Eastwood, 91, decked out in familiar liveries: cowboy boots, oversize belt buckles, a wide Stetson hat. Eastwood’s Mike Milo is not a lone gunman or cattle rustler but an aged rodeo star with a busted back. He’s dispatched by his boss (Dwight Yoakam) to retrieve his estranged son, Rafael (Eduardo Minett), from Mexico and bring him back to Texas. Like Unforgiven, it’s a film Eastwood initially passed on decades ago, believing that he was, as he recently told the Los Angeles Times, “too young for this.” The screenplay is by Nick Schenk, who also wrote 2008’s Gran Torino and 2018’s The Mule, films to which Eastwood lent his talents as director and star. Taken together, these films constitute a loose trilogy, making a virtue........

© New Republic


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