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Clint cries ‘Macho’ in twilit fable

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“Cry Macho” is showing at Prime Cinemas Sonoma and streaming on HBO Max. Rated PG-13. Running time 1:41. Visit www.prime-cinemas.com or play.hbomax.com.

If nothing else, Clint Eastwood’s latest has a great title: “Cry Macho.” The film, set in 1979, showcases what Eastwood can still do at age 91. Clint rides a horse. Punches a bad guy. Sleeps outside on the dirt. Seduces a lady (or two). Eludes a police raid. To make the film slightly more relatable, he does take a satisfying nap in the sun.

Eastwood’s Mike is an old rodeo rider and horse trainer, living with a lot of dusty memorabilia from the glory days. One morning his boss Howard (Dwight Yoakam) loses patience and fires the old timer: “You’re a loss to no one.”

Mike grunts, “You’ve always been small, weak and gutless.”

Despite this contentious row, Howard asks Mike to go down to Mexico City and retrieve his long-lost son, the product of an assignation with a shady seductress.

The aged fixer dutifully travels south and meets Leta (Fernanda Urrejola) in her silky undergarments. When Mike refuses her tempting offer of a roll in the hay, she tosses him out on the street, claiming he’ll never be able to track down the boy in a city of 20 million residents. But it takes Mike about 10 minutes to find young Rafo (Eduardo Minett) at a cockfight, clutching his prize bird, Macho.

What happens next feels a lot like a kidnapping, but Mike absconds with the kid in a firm but avuncular manner — if it’s one thing wayward teens love, it’s nonagenarian disciplinarians. In the end, Rafo’s wildness is mostly defined by having a little dirt on his face and a fighting cock under his arm. The latter of which Mike grumbles about in the truck: “I don’t want him crapping on the upholstery.”

In spite of the old man opprobrium, Macho’s a real pretty chicken, and he comes in handy a few times as Mike and Rafo evade the Federales and Leta’s henchmen on their wending road back north.

When they run into some car trouble, Mike fully embraces life south of the border — he loses his gringo clothes and finds something more appropriate, settling into a chic style befitting a Grandfather with No Name. Rafo’s character is a blank slate but that works well for Mike, who teaches him how to ride a horse and respect his elders.

In the dusty pueblo, they meet a kindly café owner, Marta (Natalia Traven). Like Mike, she’s widowed and gently horny — soon they’re slow dancing and making homemade tortillas together before Mike reads the grandkids bedtime stories in broken español. More remarkably, he becomes the town’s terse Dr. Doolittle. He fixes up a wounded goat, fat-shames a thick little piggy, and whispers at some horses.

Most scenes glow with the pleasant patina of late afternoon light, as crafted by cinematographer Ben Davis. It’s all pretty majestic except, for some reason, Mike still wants to finish the job and return Rafo to ornery old Howard in Texas.

Credit to Eastwood for putting in a few interesting lines right at the end about how he, “Used to be macho,” and what a lot of rot that was. There’s something fascinating about the director — on his (perhaps) last ride — addressing the perils of ultra-masculinity to a teenager. It’s wholesome entertainment, underlining the fact that you can get by with a little help from your friends, or your rooster.

Now Showing

“Cry Macho” is showing at Prime Cinemas Sonoma and streaming on HBO Max. Rated PG-13. Running time 1:41. Visit www.prime-cinemas.com or play.hbomax.com.

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