Clint Eastwood’s latest film Cry Macho is topping the streaming charts despite a relatively subpar opening at the North American box office.
The dramatic Western film faced incredibly stiff competition as Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings continued to dominate the box office, marking the first exclusive theater release for the Marvel Cinematic Universe since the pandemic began. The reliable powerhouse attracted all the young money to the theater in its third week, eclipsing Clint Eastwood’s latest period piece, which mostly skewed toward an older audience that is still reluctant to hit the movie theater amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, like all of the Warner Bros. slate of movies in 2021, Cry Macho was released both in theaters and for free to all HBO Max subscribers. Despite its slow start at the box office and even its slow start on streaming (Deadline reporting it only attracted 693,0000 households in the U.S.) Clint Eastwood proved that slow and steady wins the race. The movie is currently at the top of the streaming charts in America and shows no signs of slowing down.
The film follows Clint Eastwood as a former championship rodeo star from Texas. After a back injury took him out of the game for good, he’s struggling to find his place in the world and what his life will look like without his work. That’s when an opportunity comes knocking in the form of his boss asking him to travel to Mexico to pick up his 13-year-old son from his mother. It is soon revealed that the boy’s mother exists in a world of crime that the man’s son, Rafo, has fallen into as well.
When Clint Eastwood’s character finds Rafo, he’s competing in an underground cockfighting ring with his prized rooster named, you guessed it, Macho. The story then unfolds as the former rodeo star as he reluctantly takes the youngster under his wing on a daring journey to get to the U.S. border while he teaches the kid about real machismo and avoids henchmen sent on behalf of his mother, who doesn’t want him to leave Mexico.
If the story sounds like the plot of an old Western that Clint Eastwood would have starred in back during his prime, you’re not far off. The film is based on a novel of the same name by N. Richard Nash. The story goes that he originally wrote it as a script that no one would buy. Once the novel with the same story received some acclaim, he shopped it around again as a script, this time with more success. However, developing it was a different story. The film has essentially been kicked down the road since the 1970s with Deadline reporting Roy Scheider was originally supposed to star close to five decades ago. Later iterations would have seen Burt Lancaster or Pierce Brosnan take on the starring role after Eastwood initially passed on the project to make The Dead Pool in 1988.
At one point, Arnold Schwarzenegger was tapped to play the lead role in what would have obviously been a significantly different picture than the one with Clint Eastwood that is currently leading the streaming charts. However, his time as governor and the subsequent affair scandal involving a secret lovechild that ended his marriage to Maria Shriver put an end to Schwarzenegger’s involvement with the film.
Unfortunately, it seems that all that time in development hell did not do the film any better. Despite audiences watching it more and more since its debut, criticism of the film has not been favorable thus far. With a dismal 54 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, it seems no one is really into seeing the 91-year-old Clint Eastwood school the younger generation on what it means to be “macho” — even if the movie takes place in 1979.
As The New York Times notes in its review, the movie suffers in many ways from also being directed by its star, Clint Eastwood. While the action of the film is spurred on by the group’s urgency to get across the border while being pursued, writer A.O. Scott notes that Clint Eastwood’s character simply meanders his way across a picturesque Mexican landscape, lovingly shot by the director in a slow-paced adventure that doesn’t seem to achieve the high stakes necessary to make it anything more than a dramatic road trip from point A to point B.