The Card Counter Director Paul Schrader Is Not A Fan Of Clint Eastwood's Cry Macho

In a documentary on the home video release of his 1985 movie "Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters," director Paul Schrader talks about then being in a unique position to make a movie people knew wouldn't make money. After his early directorial success on "American Gigolo," that situation has proved to be the rule rather than the exception, with even Schrader's most critically acclaimed films like "Affliction" or "First Reformed" taking in $2 to $6 million apiece, and many of his lesser-appreciated pictures often grossing in the scant tens of thousands arena. 

So it seems a little bit in the "pot-and-kettle" realm that the director of the recent critical darling "The Card Counter" should choose to kick a fellow auteur while he's down, but in a new Facebook post (via IndieWire) Schrader has given Clint Eastwood a public spanking for his new film "Cry Macho." Yes, the movie where the 91-year-old legend plays an aging rodeo star who goes on a road trip through Mexico with a 13-year-old boy and a rooster is more of a turkey than his usual output, earning mixed-to-negative reviews for being hokey, with some claiming Eastwood was far too old to play the lead role. And more still, "Cry Macho" has unceremoniously died at the Covid-damaged box office with a measly $9 million worldwide take, what it was originally expected to make opening weekend. But what insight does Schrader bring to the table on this unfortunate misfire in Eastwood's sterling five-decade directing career?

'It Fails in Every Area'

Here is the opinionated Schrader's take on "Cry Macho":

"I can appreciate the inclination to give Clint Eastwood a pass but has an important American director made a film as bad as 'Cry Macho' since Howard Hawks' 'Man's Favorite Spot'? It fails in every area: screenwriting, lighting, locations, sets, props, wardrobe and casting. When, early on, Eastwood employs an under the car shot of a boot hitting the ground I thought, 'Great, he's going to riff on the stylizations of macho westerns' — but that was the last interesting composition in the film. Sure, Clint is given a few cliché ridden passages about the futility of machismo but these only have value because a shrunken 'Dirty Harry' is giving voice to them. These character insights had value thirty years ago. It was like listening to a criminal apologize to the family of his victims in hopes that the judge will cut him a lesser sentence."

Aside from the bluntness that Schrader is known for, the screenwriter/director who started his career as a film critic mentored by the great Pauline Kael is right to speak truth to power ... even when said power is a frail old man. Why should Eastwood be graded on a curve (except in his movie "Trouble With the Curve")? If Warner Bros. continues to provide Eastwood the luxury of making mid-range $33 million dollar dramas like "Cry Macho" in an era when other filmmakers (like Schrader) have to struggle to get projects of this type and scale financed for much less, then why can't we cry foul over "Cry Macho"? 

Still, Eastwood has made some true blue classics over the years, including "High Plains Drifter," "Bird," "Unforgiven," and "Mystic River," and maybe should be afforded a modicum of respect for going the distance the way he has, as our own Josh Spiegel pointed out in his review. We don't expect Clint's movies to not do well, but when he does make a loser like "Cry Macho" it's the exception, not the rule.