Cry Macho reflects on Clint Eastwood’s cowboy career in heartfelt neo-western

Jack Rogula, asst. a&e editor

“You gave me your word. And that used to mean something,” is one of the first lines spoken in Cry Macho, and it rings true throughout the movie. Clint Eastwood’s newest film, in which he starred and directed, echoes themes of family, growing up, and learning when to let go. Similar to Eastwood’s 2008 film Gran Torino, it differs from traditional western and action films, instead taking a slower, more reflective approach. 

Cry Macho follows Mike Milo (Eastwood), a Texas rodeo performer who was forced to resign after suffering through multiple tragedies. A year after Mike is fired, his former boss, Howard Polk (Dwight Yoakam), offers him a job, enticing him to drive down to Mexico and convince Polk’s son, Rafael “Rafo” Polk (Eduardo Minett), to come back home, fearing he is involved in gang violence. Milo agrees, and after finding Rafo and his fighting rooster Macho, they go on a journey back to the border, all the while trying to avoid police, gangs, and a multitude of other obstacles.

Throughout the film, Rafo struggles to identify with the idea of tough, macho masculinity. After a career of acting as characters who have this unwavering macho presence, Eastwood plays a much more subtle and relaxed character in Cry Macho. This welcome change brings a more heartfelt and vulnerable character, one who is easier to connect to.  

Instead of being a skilled gunslinger or a survivalist, he plays a retired cattleman who is far from his days of being a true cowboy and closer to being a more average person. Milo mentors Rafo, advising that he doesn’t need to act tough, for it will only take him down a dangerous path. The macho henchman that comes after Rafo and Milo are shown as clumsy, and the deputy they encounter is lazy and not heroic in the slightest. 

Eastwood criticises the idea of classic cowboys, instead pushing for characters with more depth and heart.

In typical neo-western fashion, Cry Macho critiques westerns and the legacy they bring. Much like the Coen Brother’s No Country for Old Men, Eastwood uses old age and passing time to reflect on change. Unlike former characters he has played, his character is old, feeble, and no longer invulnerable to pain. He has much more emotion, and instead of being a tough, menacing guy, he connects with the people around him, such as the old woman in the village he and Rafo hide out at. At 91 years old, Eastwood uses the character of Milo to reflect his own growth from a macho man to a mentor.