Maclaine's Sister Act Fools Eastwood
One of the easiest ways to describe "Two Mules for Sister Sara" is to take the essence of Sergio Leone's Spaghetti westerns and put it into an antagonistic storyline similar to "Rooster Cogburn". So what you get is Clint Eastwood playing a variation on the mysterious stranger, the one tough hombre who having come to the rescue of a damsel in distress not only finds himself stuck with her as they journey across the Mexico countryside but also discovering that she is a nun. But to add to that there is a further element a twist to make what is in essence two western standards into something more, something whilst not that clever is most certainly entertaining. And so whilst we have the action, with director Don Siegel relishing every moment of violence you have the humour of Clint Eastwood and Shirley MacLaine winding each other up as they travel together.
Travelling across the Mexican countryside on the way to a Fort, mercenary Hogan (Clint Eastwood - Where Eagles Dare) comes across a woman in distress, half naked and being attacked by three cowboys. Doing the decent thing he rescues her and before he knows it he has a new travelling companion in Sara (Shirley MacLaine - The Sheepman), although not a welcome one as she is also a nun. But they end up needing each other as Sara is on the run from the French and needs Hogan's help, whilst she has the inside knowledge of the Fort he is looking for. Whilst they wind each other up, they also end up being good friends; but is everything as black and white as it seems?
So as already mentioned "Two Mules for Sister Sara" comes across like a blend of a couple of western standards. There is a strong element of Sergio Leone's Spaghetti westerns especially during the opening where we watch Eastwood's tough hombre, Hogan, come across a damsel in distress, coolly coming to her rescue with the aid of a cigar and a stick of dynamite. But this is not a Leone movie and director Don Siegel makes this element more commercial, focusing on the action and ramping up the violence rather than the style whilst also employing a full on Morricone soundtrack, maybe not his best, but instantly recognizable.
But on top of this Spaghetti western side "Two Mules for Sister Sara" also has the antagonistic buddy element, similar in some ways to "Rooster Cogburn". So we get the amusement of Hogan and Sara basically annoying the hell out of each other but also stuck with each other as Sara needs Hogan's protection whilst Hogan needs Sara's knowledge of a French fort. There is scene after scene of fun as they argue but at the same time dealing with what is some heated sexual tension as Hogan is forced to behave himself in the presence of a Nun. All of which is brilliantly blended into all the Spaghetti western side of things before we get what is in many ways is a well hinted and obvious twist but still an amusingly entertaining one at that.
Now all of this is good and the elements of Spaghetti western, Siegel's love of action, the comedy of Eastwood and MacLaine arguing their way across the Mexican countryside as well as the twist are all very entertaining. In fact they are all so entertaining that the actual storyline, Hogan being a mercenary being paid to blow up a French fort for some Mexicans whilst Sara trying to escape the French who are hunting her down ends up being almost unimportant. And when it all centres on the actual purpose in the final scenes you start to wonder how it really got there, how comes Hogan and Sara plan to blow up a train bridge or how Hogan ended up with an arrow through his shoulder. And the daft thing is that you don't really care because the fun of "Two Mules for Sister Sara" is in the scenes and performances rather than the story.
It is those performances which you remember "Two Mules for Sister Sara" for and whilst Clint Eastwood falls back into familiar western territory as the mysterious stranger, the tough hombre, the humour of the storyline allows him to have some fun. The level of comical frustration which Eastwood delivers as Hogan as he finds himself having to behave himself in the company of an attractive nun provides so much humour. But at the same time Shirley MacLaine has just as much fun playing the humorously mysterious nun, stealing a swig of whisky and a toke on a cigar butt when no one is looking. And then together you have this wonderful antagonism as Sara annoys Hogan making it all good fun, maybe not laugh out loud funny but with plenty of smile moments.
What this all boils down to is that "Two Mules for Sister Sara" is a fun movie which achieves blending elements of the spaghetti western with the antagonistic buddy set up. The storyline whilst original ends up being almost unimportant as the enjoyment comes from watching Clint Eastwood and Shirley MacLaine bicker their way across the Mexican countryside. And whilst the storyline is unimportant the amusing twist just makes it all the better, giving an action packed and appropriately funny climax to what is simply a fun movie, a different sort of comedy western.