The Mule parents guide

The Mule Parent Guide

A perfectly paced, immersive film with less violence than could be expected but containing significant profanity and some sexual content.

Overall C-

Ninety-something Earl Stone has lost his home and business. To make ends meet he begins running drugs for a cartel while avoiding the Drug Enforcement Agency and not falling afoul of his employers.

Release date December 14, 2018

Violence B-
Sexual Content D
Profanity D
Substance Use C

Why is The Mule rated R? The MPAA rated The Mule R for language throughout and brief sexuality/nudity

Run Time: 116 minutes

Official Movie Site

Parent Movie Review

Clint Eastwood is both the director and star of The Mule, where he plays Earl Stone, a ninety-something horticulturalist living in Peoria Illinois. His workaholic dedication to cultivating flowers has alienated him from his family, and he lives alone in a small house with a large greenhouse until he is driven out of business and forced out of his home. However, when he meets a young man at his granddaughter’s wedding brunch, he is introduced to the underground world of drug “mules” and begins shipping narcotics from El Paso to Chicago. DEA investigators Bates (Bradley Cooper) and Trevino (Michael Peña) are closing in on the cartel, and Stone finds himself struggling to evade them while keeping the cartel happy.

Films about drugs tend to have high levels of violence and substance abuse. The Mule does not. There are scenes of murder, assault, and tense police chases, but gore is minimal and the violence is neither gratuitous nor glamorized and serves to advance the story. And even though the plot revolves around drugs, drugs are only seen twice in the movie, and are not used on screen. (There is, however, some social drinking.) Profanity will be troubling for some viewers: there are approximately three dozen sexual expletives in the film, as well as another four dozen curse words, moderate profanities, racial slurs and terms of deity. Aside from profanity, the biggest concern for parents will be brief sexual content which includes nudity. This scene involves a shirtless man and two women, one of whom is topless with a clearly visible chest. Sex is not seen; but is implied. There are also several scenes involving scantily clad women, dancing in bikinis or simply clad in very low-necked clothes. This movie is appropriately rated as a Restricted movie and should not be watched by kids or teens. Sadly, with only a slight clean-up, this production could have come in in at a PG-13.

The Mule is expertly paced, neither rushing or dragging, but relentlessly pushing forward. By keeping the pacing up so well, the movie is completely immersive, and I only remembered I was in a movie because I had to take notes. Eastwood’s directorial style is simple and clean, lending itself well to slow, emotional, and intense stories. It is to his credit that The Mule feels deeply personal and all characters on screen are emotionally complicated and real. This may be attributable to the fact that this film is based on the true story of Leo Sharp, an 87-year-old Second World War veteran who was arrested for driving three million dollars’ worth of narcotics around Michigan. Personally, I think it’s more likely that skillful writing and solid acting are responsible for bringing such depth and life to the characters.

The Mule is definitely an intense ride, but it also manages not to be hectic or over-busy. Every scene is well placed and well timed, and the story is compelling and irresistible. It manages to be funny without turning into a comedy and without taking away from the fundamental tension in the story. This is one of the best crime dramas made in the last few years and deserves to be smuggled onto a “must watch” list for adults who enjoy this genre.

Directed by Clint Eastwood. Starring Bradley Cooper, Clint Eastwood, and Taissa Farmiga. Running time: 116 minutes. Theatrical release December 14, 2018. Updated

Watch the trailer for The Mule

The Mule
Rating & Content Info

Why is The Mule rated R? The Mule is rated R by the MPAA for language throughout and brief sexuality/nudity

Violence: A character is shot from behind. Later, we see his body with his shirt bloodied, but no graphic wounds are shown. A character is slightly roughed up against a wall and is shown with a small amount of blood on his face. A dead body is shown in a trunk, with no visible injury.
Sexual Content: A character is shown dancing with two women implied to be prostitutes. Later, he is shown getting into bed with two other women, one of whom is briefly topless.
Profanity:   Three dozen sexual expletives and another three dozen profanities in all categories, including scatological curses, terms of deity, and racial slurs.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Characters are shown drinking socially or with dinner and are never shown to be intoxicated. Despite the plot of the film, illegal drugs are only directly shown twice, and are more often alluded to or discussed.

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The Mule Parents' Guide

Earl Stone did not plan to become a drug mule but chose to work for the cartel out of financial desperation. Have you ever made a bad choice because you felt under pressure? What can you do to resist pressure to do things you know are unwise or morally wrong?

Read books about The Mule

The drug trade comes with terrible consequences, both for the users and the dealers. In Tattoos on the Heart and its sequel, Barking to the Choir, Gregory Boyle, a priest in Los Angeles, writes about helping gang members escape from a life of crime, find jobs, and build stable lives.

Home Video

Related home video titles:

Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino (2008) covers much of the same thematic ground, as an old Korean War veteran becomes involved in local gang crime and tries to come to terms with his estranged family.

In Snitch, Dawyne Johnson plays a father who agrees to go undercover in a drug ring to save his son from an unjust drug trafficking conviction.

A more family-suitable alternative about an elderly criminal is The Old Man and the Gun, starring Robert Redford in his allegedly final film role