Clint Eastwood makes an unlikely acting comeback in the trailer for The Mule, his first film as both director and star since 2008’s Gran Torino, and the prolific director’s second film this year after 15:17 to Paris.
Based on the true story of Leo Sharp, the film stars Eastwood as Earl Stone, a World War II veteran who in his ‘80s became a drug mule for a Mexican cartel. Eastwood’s American Sniper star Bradley Cooper, soon to make his own directorial debut with A Star Is Born, hunts him down as DEA agent Colin Bates in The Mule, with Laurence Fishburne, Michael Peña, Dianne Wiest and Andy Garcia also rounding out the cast.
It’s hard to know what to make of The Mule, which could go all sorts of directions in terms of Eastwood’s wildly varying recent career. The veteran director has put out thoughtful meditations on the consequences of American patriotism with films like Letters from Iwo Jima, but also less successful explorations of race and white masculinity with such films as American Sniper and Gran Torino, his two most successful titles to date.
In his personal life, too, he’s gotten into trouble with his controversial, sometimes contradictory political beliefs, including his bizarre “empty chair” speech at the 2012 Republican National Convention and his comments about Donald Trump during the 2016 election.
A film about an elderly white man working for a Mexican cartel could prove to be a surprisingly empathetic view from the opposite side of the American drug trade, or it could turn out more like American Sniper, which was accused of jingoism when it unexpectedly became the highest-grossing film of 2014. Or, as was the case with Jersey Boys and 15:17 to Paris, it could simply strike out with audiences.
We’ll find out soon enough: The Mule opens in theaters on Dec. 14.
Watch the trailer below.