Two Sinners and a Mule Poster

Two Sinners and a Mule (2023) Review

Despite the title, Two Sinners and a Mule has nothing to do with Tijuana or some of the less savory entertainment available there. It does have a pair of saloon girls Alice (Chantelle Albers, Reawakened, The 6th Friend) and Nora (Hannah James, Let Them All Talk, Mercy Street) who are, as the film starts, getting run out of town by a mob of jealous wives known as The Women’s Decency League.

Making their way to Virginia City with the idea of opening a restaurant, they come across Elden (Cam Gigandet, Assimilate, Black Warrant) who was tracking an outlaw named Grimes (Cord Newman, Take the Night, The Commando) until his prey turned the tables and got the drop on him. They nurse him back to health and offer him a deal, they’ll help him bring Grimes in, in return for half of the reward.

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Two Sinners and a Mule is the first feature credit for writer Beau Hilliard and the first directorial credit for Raliegh Wilson, who’s worked as a stuntman and livestock wrangler on films like Dead for a Dollar and FDR: American Badass! Despite his background in stunt work, the film’s first half hour is more concerned with double entendres and anachronistic bad girl dialogue than gunplay.

This wouldn’t be so bad if it was actually funny, but mostly it’s stale gags like the ladies comparing the size of Elden’s love gun to actual guns or comments about dealing with hard men Indeed, Two Sinners and a Mule is played so lightly that it’s a shock when Grimes runs into some fellow outlaws who have a captive Native woman and the script switches to rape jokes and eventually a rape scene. It’s quite the tonal shift, and not the only one the film throws at the viewer.

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That does lead to the film’s first actual action scene, a gunfight involving riders on horseback and in a wagon. But by this point, we’re fifty minutes into Two Sinners and a Mule, and anyone tuning in for the action film the extremely deceptive trailer promises will be growing very impatient. And they’ll grow even more impatient as the script veers into rom-com territory before finally throwing some lead around in the last few minutes.

The film’s main problem, apart from a lack of action, is it has no idea what kind of a film it wants to be. One minute it’s a light collection of raunchy jokes and digs at moral crusaders. Then suddenly sexual assault comes into play promptly followed by romance as both women develop feelings for Elden. Then the film takes another change of tone on the way to an extremely unsatisfying conclusion.

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If Hilliard and Wilson had stuck with the idea of a rom-com in the Old West, and Lionsgate had advertised it that way, Two Sinners and a Mule might have had a chance. Instead, the plot wanders all over the map shifting from funny to serious to light-hearted, and even makes an attempt at being heartbreaking. Which also might have worked if anyone cared by that point.

The cinematography by Bruce Logan (Tron, Jackson County Jail) looks good as do the women in their working outfits. But that’s not a lot to hold one’s interest for ninety minutes. While it is commendable that Wilson stepped outside the action film arena he was most familiar with for his debut, it would have been better if he had a better idea of just what he wanted to do before the cameras started rolling.

Two Sinners and a Mule is available on VOD and Digital Platforms via Lionsgate. It will be available on Blu-ray and DVD on May 30th. If you’re looking for something similar but hopefully better, FilmTagger can offer a suggestion or two.

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