The Mule isn’t a horror movie. But it’s perfect for readers of Bloody-Disgusting. By now you guys have lived with writer Leigh Whannell’s films (Saw 1-3, Insidious 1 and 2, Dead Silence, Death Sentence) for so long you’ll totally be able to recognize his voice in this film (and as one of the film’s leads you’ll also recognize his face). As an added primer, it was co-written and co-directed by Angus Sampson – who also co-stars. If that name doesn’t ring a bell just mentally refer to Tucker and Specs from Insidious – that’s him.
But it’s not just name recognition that makes this a no-brainer. The film also requires you as a viewer to have the strongest of stomachs, because some of the sh*t that goes down here is a totally different kind of body horror. Sampson stars as Ray Jenkins, a passive mama’s boy who is coaxed by longtime bad influence Gavin (Whannell) into smuggling heroin from Thailand to Australia at the behest of a very, very bad man (John Noble). Ray takes about two steps back into the airport upon his return before he’s nabbed by the Australian Federal Police (Hugo Weaving and Ewen Leslie in a great and twisty good cop/bad cop dynamic). After a quick trip to the hospital he’s placed into custody in a hotel room where he must stay under surveillance until he has had two full bowel movements.
So yes, this movie is about a man trying not to poop. For a long time. Aided by a charismatic attorney (Georgina Haig) he withstands the temptation to defecate for days… and days… and days. Your mind can fill in some of the blanks here when it comes to the gross stuff (though probably not all of them). But The Mule is also about the people waiting for Ray to defecate. From the cops to the evilly banal crime lord to Gavin, who got him in this mess to begin with. And the movie succeeds at deftly juggling all of these story lines. It’s a classic working class crime film. When I first heard the synopsis, I thought this whole thing was going to be played too broadly – but The Mule actually has a beating heart and a high sense of peril. When people die it can be shocking and brutal, but never in a way that makes it feel like Whannell and Sampson are paying fan service. The film also looks great, wringing an impressive amount of production value from what I imagine was a small budget.
I very rarely address our readership directly in my reviews, I try to discuss horror movies here as though they were any other film and hold them up to the same scrutiny. But when a film categorically fits under a different genre heading I feel a need to let you know why I’m recommending it. With the combo of Whannell and Sampson, you know you’re in able hands. With The Mule‘s stomach churning moments, I guarantee you’ll get your daily kicks. But, more importantly, the film just happens to be a project made by artists (most of) you like that turned out really, really well. Hopefully that’s enough.