In his 42nd movie, Clint Eastwood, 91 and seemingly hell-bent on surpassing Portuguese director Manoel de Oliviera’s record as the oldest director in the world, shares the screen with a 13-year-old and his rooster. Cry Macho derives its title from the rooster’s name as well as the exemplars of masculinity that the Hollywood legend has played over the decades.

Eastwood is Mike Milo, a rodeo star who is turfed out of his job by his boss Howard (Dwight Yoakam) after an injury. It’s time for new blood, Howard declares – never the right thing to say in a Clint Eastwood movie. Yet, when Howard has to extract his son Raphael (Eduardo Minett) from his estranged wife Letta (Fernanda Urrejola) in Mexico, he turns to Mike.

Raphael and Mike hit the road along with Macho, somehow managing to evading Letta’s henchmen and the Mexican police. A forced interlude in a town where Mike meets big-hearted cafe owner Marta (Natalia Traven) brings the previously sparring elderly gent, the rebellious teenager and the combative rooster in the same corner.

The BookMyShow Stream release is based on N Richard Nash’s 1975 novel of the same name. Despite containing many of Eastwood’s trademark touches – unfussy direction, wry humour, community stereotypes that are overturned by acts of humanity, existential musings, literal and philosophical standoffs, a self-reflexive critique of Eastwood’s long-standing image as a symbol of American manhood – Cry Macho comes to life only in fits and starts.

The crisp runtime (an hour and 46 minutes) is barely able to cover Raphael’s sudden journey from surly to simpatico. The rote screenplay, by Nash and Richard Schenk, works best in the portions when Mike and Raphael take an extended break in Marta’s hometown and find a peace that has been missing in both their lives.

Eduardo Minett turns out a sprightly performance, and Natalia Traven perfectly mimics a woman who develops feelings for Mike. The rooster Macho plays his part too, popping up at opportune moments like the falcon Allah Rakha in Manmohan Desai’s Coolie.

Despite Eastwood’s best efforts – including riding a horse and landing a punch – every second of his advanced age is visible on the screen. Distressingly bent-backed and gaunt, the raspiness in the voice now reduced to a whisper, Eastwood plods along in a movie that is creaky in more ways than one.

Cry Macho (2021).