Clint Eastwood's 'Cry Macho' Is a Kinder, Gentler Cowboy Movie

An ex-rodeo star, a rowdy teenager, and a wild rooster walk into a bar...

Claire Folger/Warner Brothers
Claire Folger/Warner Brothers
Claire Folger/Warner Brothers

“Cowboys always cook,” notes Clint Eastwood’s ex-rodeo star in the languid second half of his new film, the rambling road drama Cry Macho. “It’s kinda our deal.” The specific delivery of the last part of the line might feel vaguely anachronistic for Eastwood’s character, Texas ranch hand Mike Milo, to say in the film’s version of 1979, but the out-of-time feeling only adds to the movie’s peculiarly pleasing dreamlike spell. And Mike is right: Whether they’re chasing bandits or herding cattle, cowboys always cook. After all, you’ve gotta have something to eat when you travel, one of the many lessons Cry Macho is more than happy to impart to you with a dusty pat on the back.

If this sounds like a relatively minor observation, well, Cry Macho often feels like a relatively minor film from a filmmaker who has little left to prove but plenty of talent, craft, and charisma to burn. Compared to some of the 91-year-old icon’s other recent ripped-from-the-headlines movies, like 2019’s thorny grappling with matters of public perception Richard Jewell or 2016’s prickly study of heroism Sully, Cry Macho takes it easy. Even next to 2019’s forlorn crime saga The Mule, which also starred Eastwood as an old-timer making peace with his past, this is more of a low-stakes endeavour. Yes, there’s a plot about Mike being tasked with finding a young boy (Eduardo Minett) in Mexico and bringing him back to Texas to be with his father (Dwight Yoakam), but Eastwood’s camera often drifts from the action to instead luxuriate in the small pleasures: enjoying a meal with a new friend, dancing in a mostly empty room, or cracking jokes about a rooster named Macho.

Claire Folger/Warner Brothers
Claire Folger/Warner Brothers
Claire Folger/Warner Brothers

Macho, named in an aspirational way by his wounded owner, belongs to Rafael, the teenager Mike’s assigned to find. When Mike crosses the border into Mexico, it does not take him very long to locate Rafael; he shows up, questions the boy’s mother, who tries to sleep with him, and then quickly discovers him at a cockfight. Rafael’s mother dismissively describes him as a “monster” and “an animal that lives in the gutter,” but it’s quickly apparent that Rafael is actually sensitive and thoughtful and simply attempting to make his way in a confusing, cruel world. He’s looking for guidance, or, as luck would have it, a cranky grandfather-like figure to teach him how to ride a horse, throw a punch, and pluck bits of dust out of Macho’s eye.

Even at his increased age, Eastwood slides right into this reluctant mentor role, which was first offered to him back in 1988, more than 10 years after the publication of N. Richard Nash’s original 1975 novel and at a time when the Dirty Harry star was already comfortable playing grizzled. (Apparently, Roy Schnieder, Pierce Bronson, and, perhaps most intriguingly, Arnold Schwarzenegger were all circled for the lead in the project’s long journey from page to screen.) Mike, offering the kid a new life in Texas with his father, emerges as a mostly non-violent figure of stability and an occasional fount of rough-hewn wisdom. As you might guess, the tone is often broad, drawing attention to Eastwood’s age and playing with his on-screen persona, but the performers find nuance and life in the quiet beats.

Given the weight of history he carries when he appears in a movie, it can be tough to appreciate just how gifted and sensitive a performer Eastwood remains. He sells the jokes and knows exactly when to turn up the emotion. 1992’s Unforgiven was his goodbye to the Western, the blood-strewn genre that made him a star, and Cry Macho, a wry and delicate film that tussles the hair of certain Western conventions, isn’t really attempting to make a grand statement or reckon with the past. If anything, it feels like a coda. Still, as a dramatist, Eastwood is drawn to moments of friction: desire, violence, deception, and heartbreak. Though Cry Macho might be the closest thing to a “hangout” movie he’s ever made, there’s still plenty to chew on. That’s kinda his deal.

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Dan Jackson is a senior staff writer at Thrillist Entertainment. He’s on Twitter @danielvjackson.


Where to Celebrate Lunar New Year 2023 in Australia

And what it means to be in the year of the Rabbit.

where to celebrate lunar new year australia

Starting with the new moon on Sunday, January 22, this Lunar New Year ushers in the year of the Rabbit. We’ve put together a guide on celebrating the Lunar New Year in Australia.

What is special about the year of the Rabbit?

As you might know, each year has an animal sign in the Chinese Zodiac, which is based on the moon and has a 12-year cycle. This year, we celebrate the year of the rabbit, known to be the luckiest out of all twelve animals. It symbolises mercy, elegance, and beauty.

What celebrations are taking place and how can I get involved?

There are plenty of festivals happening all around the country which you can get involved with. Here they are per state.

New South Wales

Darling Harbour Fireworks
When: Every year, Sydney puts on a fireworks show, and this year, you can catch it on January 28 and February 4 at 9 pm in Darling Harbour.

Dragon Boat Races
When: Witness three days of dragon boat races and entertainment on Cockle Bay to usher in the Lunar New Year. The races will commence on January 27 and finish on January 29.

Lion Dances
When: Catch a traditional Lion Dance moving to the beat of a vigorous drum bringing good luck and fortune for the Lunar New Year. The dance performances will happen across Darling Harbour on Saturday, January 21, Sunday, January 22, and Sunday, February 4 and 5, around 6 pm and 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at Cirrus Dining
When: Barangaroo’s waterfront seafood restaurant, Cirrus, is celebrating the Year of the Rabbit with a special feast menu. Cirrus’ LNY menu is $128pp with optional wine pairing and is available from Saturday, January 21, to Sunday, February 5.

Auntie Philter
When: Hello Auntie’s owner and executive chef, Cuong Nguyen will be dishing out some of the most classic Vietnamese street foods with his mum, Linda. All of Philter’s favourites will be on offer, as well as Raspberry Pash Beer Slushies and other cocktails being served at the Philter Brewing rooftop bar on Sunday, January 22 and Sunday, January 29.


Lunar New Year Festival
When: Ring in the Lunar New Year with food, music, arts, and more on Sunday, January 22, from 10 am to 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at the National Gallery of Victoria
When: Celebrate the year of the rabbit at the National Gallery of Victoria’s festival of art, food, and art-making activities for everyone from 10 am-5 pm.


BriAsia Festival
When: From February 1-19, Brisbane will come alive with performances, including lion dances and martial arts displays. There will be street food, workshops, comedy and more.

South Australia

Chinatown Adelaide Street Party
When: Adelaide is set to hose a fun-filled day celebrating the Chinese New Year on Saturday, January 28, from 12 pm to 9 pm.

Western Australia

Crown Perth
When: Across January and February, Crown Perth hosts free live entertainment, including colourful lion dances, roving mascots, and drumming performances. The restaurants will also throw banquets and menus dedicated to the Lunar New Year.

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