Long gone is the cinematic epoch of westerns bearing the hallowed diadem of Hollywood royalty (now inhabited with the popular and overcrowded superhero genre of modern cinema). And Cry Macho – the latest silver screen rodeo from legendary director and lead star Clint Eastwood – by no means signals a thunderous resurgence of westerns.
Eastwood’s body of work is peppered with hallmark ‘tough guy’ characters, but characters of the “gritty lone gunslinger” ilk in westerns essentially etched Eastwood into filmic stardom, simultaneously inspiring the western genre’s golden age in the 60s.
Eastwood and westerns have a lot to thank each other for, and thus he wistfully completes a sentimental full circle by returning into the fedora-donning fold of westerns with Cry Macho – a film about a retired bull riding champion (played by Eastwood) named Mike Milo, and his reluctant excursion into Mexico to retrieve his old boss’ teenage son, Rafo, and return him home.
Cry Macho – the latest silver screen rodeo from legendary director and lead star Clint Eastwood – by no means signals a thunderous resurgence of westerns.
Cry Macho isn’t a typical western by traditional standards. It’s futile to expect swift gunplay and destructive shootouts from the 91-year-old Eastwood. Cry Macho is instead a fittingly quiet, ruminating swansong to classic westerns that meditates on the twilight of a progeny born from the bygone wild west era.
Something as beautifully subtle as Mike driving a truck alongside string of galloping horses at the film’s beginning effectively evokes the horse-riding bravado of Eastwood’s older westerns, and subsequently sets the stage for an elegiac voyage into unearthing Mike’s long-buried cowboy gusto once thought lost to geriatric rot.
With modern Texas no longer being the yardstick of classic wild west adventurism like before, Mexico is a perfect neo-western haven, with its remote towns and dangerous dunescapes reminiscent of the lawless West of yore. It’s here Mike meets Rafo and his prized fighter cock, Macho. Their time together is wrought with squabble, with Rafo exhibiting an unbridled tough guy front, and it’s at these pivotal moments where Mike tries to impart salient advice to Rafo on what it really means to a tough guy – to be macho.
It’s not about dramatic displays of strength amidst rebellious zeal – akin to feral fighter cocks (hence Macho’s symbolism). Being macho is embodying matured grit amongst measured tenacity, as Eastwood’s characters and real-life persona have always been.
Profoundly simple yet scarcely found today, it’s this unpretentious and often forgotten age-old wisdom that Eastwood wants to impart to us as an eternal requiem before his proverbial ride into the sunset – and for that, and more, I can’t thank him enough.