When Tough Guys Ruled the Cinema-Episode Four: Two Mules for Sister Sara

Two_Mules_for_Sister_Sara_1970At first glance, the 1970 film “Two Mules for Sister Sara,” directed by Don Siegel [Telefon, Dirty Harry] appears to be another romp ’em, stomp ’em Western starring Clint Eastwood [Joe Kidd, Dirty Harry]. But at its heart, there is much more.

Thanks to an excellent performance from Shirley MacLaine [Terms of Endearment, Steel Magnolias] this film ends up becoming somewhat of a hybrid Western/Romantic comedy, but make no mistake about it, this effort in cinema is not for the those who missed “Bridget Jones’ Diary” on TNT last week.

Instead, it’s more for the type that enjoys cleaning their gun while working over a can of beans, producing a realistic and gritty take on the Western love story.

As a result, anyone looking for their quench of old-school toughness and bravado on the big screen need look no further.

The majority of that machismo comes from Eastwood, who plays Hogan, a gun for hire who ironically comes across Sara, a young nun on the run from the French government [during the European intervention in Mexico, which lasted from 1861 to 1867]. After killing a trio of men who were attempting to rape and kill Sara, Eastwood attempts to go back on his merry old way until he too is forced to deal with the French, with her by his side. After the threat temporarily subsides, Hogan thinks of a way to strike back at the French and make some money in return, but needs MacLaine, who escaped from an important French garrison just a few days earlier, to help him carry out his plan.

What ensues along the way is plenty of shootin’ and killin’- more than enough for any fan of Eastwood in his other Western offerings. Halfway through the film however, MacLaine starts to become comfortable with her savior and we find out this nun may not be so wholesome and pure after all.

As the film progresses, it seems that Eastwood and MacLaine are perfect for each other.

This discovery and the developments leading towards this not only make MacLaine more than just a damsel in distress, they give her a viability that not many women could have had in a Western and especially one with someone the likes of Eastwood. In return, the film becomes equally as fun as it is tough.

While Eastwood himself is easily the brawn of the pair, MacLaine is a pretty tough customer herself and does her fair share of fightin’ along the way to prove herself. Again, while Eastwood’s savvy and ability to think on the run make this movie an enjoyable one for anyone remotely interested in his work, MacLaine’s ability to tweak his plans on the fly and improve upon them give the film more brevity and charisma than many other Westerns.

As a result, what appears to be a lukewarm pair in the beginning of the film, eventually ends up being a more than fiery one.

That is one reason why “Two Mules for Sister Sara” achieves what it sets out to do and then some.

However, the film is far from perfect as it lacks a real villain [Eastwood and MacLaine fight the French army throughout the film and there’s never a strong leader. Instead it’s empty waves of soldiers.] and the presence of a dynamic supporting cast, which hurt its overall appeal and validity as a truly great Western.

Nevertheless, it’s still a cunning attempt at character-driven cinema that is sure to satisfy for the same reasons it may turn off some tough guys looking for pure gun-toting carnage- it’s different and doesn’t try to be anything else.

About Patrick Hickey Jr. 12180 Articles
Patrick Hickey Jr. is the Founder, Editor-in-Chief, Master Jedi and Grand Pooh-bah of ReviewFix.com and is the author of the book, "The Minds Behind the Games: Interviews with Cult and Classic Video Game Developers," from leading academic and non-fiction publisher McFarland and Company. He is currently the Assistant Director of the Journalism Program at Kingsborough Community College and is a former News Editor at NBC Local Integrated Media and a National Video Games Writer at the late Examiner.com. He has also had articles and photos published in The New York Times, The New York Daily News, Complex and The Syracuse Post-Standard. Love him. Read him.

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