Critics routinely cheer the most despicable characters on screens large and small. So why the fury against Eastwood's crusty codger?

Today’s Hollywood creates characters you’d lock up in jail if you could.

Think Walter White, Jack Sparrow and countless other antiheroes who break the law (and much worse). The 2016 dud “Suicide Squad” made heroes out of these tortured souls. And what about all those films featuring hit men with hearts of gold?

Tell it to the loved ones of their targets.

What’s the cultural response to these deeply flawed souls? No judgments from pearl-clutching scribes, pop culture columnists or film critics.

Along comes Clint Eastwood’s crusty character in “The Mule,” and suddenly some of the latter group are aghast the codger is allowed to grace the big screen at all.

Eastwood plays Earl Stone, a Korean War veteran who takes a gig as a drug mule to make ends meet. The film, co-starring Michael Pena, Bradley Cooper, Dianne Wiest and Laurence Fishburne, is based on a true story. It’s Eastwood’s first leading role since 2012’s “Trouble with the Curve.”

The icon had little trouble drawing a crowd (again). “The Mule” earned a respectable $17 million during its opening weekend along with some very positive reviews. Other critics saw things differently, but not from a strictly creative lens.

They cried foul over a movie featuring a protagonist who spouts crude, racist blather.

A site called HipLatina.com excoriated both the movie and its elderly star.

Clint Eastwood is old AF. I get it. But is that supposed to make it okay that The Mule is a lazy piece of racist nonsense? The entire film plays like a morality tale whose main point seems to be, “You can be a really terrible person, but you might have an opportunity to change, no matter how old you are.”

Well, yes.

Change is a critical factor in drama. Audiences routinely engage with flawed characters who are allowed to grow, no matter their age. Some hit men even stop hitting their targets by the end of their respective films.

The critic then plays the Race Card to attack “The Mule.”

At its core, it’s a movie about an old white man trying to avoid slipping into irrelevancy. Sound familiar?

That obscure site isn’t the only one demanding the film’s main character is flat out wrong. This major critic takes a more destructive step.

Katie Walsh, a syndicated film reviewer with Tribune News Service, declares the film’s literal release to be, well, wrong.

Regardless, hundreds of people are responsible for “The Mule,” who very much should have known better than to release this bizarre, offensive debacle.

Since when is it a critic’s job to tell movie studios a film is not meant to be released?

Walsh is temporarily wooed by a progressive thread in “The Mule.” Then she remembers the film’s star/director is a Republican.

Cue the fainting couch!

There’s an interesting anti-capitalist strain here, but then you remember who made it and think twice.

“The Mule” almost told an “accepted” storyline… but then it went off the rails.

Not to be outdone, the Leftist Variety.com offered up this SJW-approved review. The critic fears characters like Earl Stone will be able to speak their mind in future films, too.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with presenting bigoted people on-screen, since heaven knows they exist in real life, but the trouble with “The Mule” is that it invites audiences to laugh along with Earl’s ignorance. From here, it’s no great stretch to imagine a movement — call it “Make Hollywood Great Again” — advocating for movies in which politically incorrect characters like the ones Eastwood has played for most of his career will be free to speak their minds again.

We laugh, in part, because we know Earl’s language is inappropriate. We get the context, and nervously chuckle at his antiquated ways. When he calls a group of lesbian bikers “dykes” it’s because that’s what they called themselves, and he’s clearly trying to be precise and accommodating with his language.

The critic goes on, saying it’s wrong to make Eastwood’s racist character likable. Does this critic bemoan how the villains in “Suicide Squad” could be likable, too? Or even, gasp, sexy, like the villainous Harley Quinn?

What about “Bonnie & Clyde.” They robbed banks, remember? That’s a far worse sin that using a racially insensitive comment.

Or is it to cultural writers?

Today’s Leftist scolds want more than just ugly language wiped from our vernacular. They dig their heels in elsewhere, cheering Republican figures getting chased from restaurants and silenced by other methods.

Just ask Ben Shapiro.

A small but growing number of film critics regrettably fall into this camp. Their reviews reflect this worldview, even those who purportedly work for “neutral” news outlets.

The majority of film critics, to be fair, judged “The Mule” on its artistic merits. Some applauded Eastwood’s latest work. Others found flaws in it. Bravo to both approaches.

For a select few, featuring an old timer who shares the backward views of his generation marks the movie as not just unacceptable but downright dangerous. Meanwhile, they collectively shrug over the killers, thieves and outlaws who also populate movies today.

UPDATE: Two other notable movie sites followed a remarkably similar line of attack against “The Mule.”

BirthMoviesDeath.com savaged Eastwood for being a Republican in its review. In between, the critic in question fuses Earl Stone and Eastwood together as one.

Earl is framed as loveable for his casual racism and lack of sympathetic filter, yet he’s anything but, and The Mule is openly hostile to anyone who thinks otherwise. If you don’t think it’s right for Earl to be empathetic not in spite of, but because of his attitudinal bigotry, then Clint Eastwood would love to spend these two hours telling you to go f*** yourself.

Well f*** you too, Clint.

Over at Pajiba.com, the site’s critic says the movie is as racist as predicted.

Yes, its greatest flaws are its expectedly racist and sexist undertones, but also, holy shit, The Mule is f***ing boring.

For what it’s worth, Eastwood wouldn’t have a career stretching into his late 80s if he were a racist. He wouldn’t have made movies like “Bird,” a tribute to Charlie “Bird” Parker, if he were racist. He wouldn’t have directed Morgan Freeman to an Oscar win for “Million Dollar Baby” if he were racist.

Now, at 88, Eastwood is a racist to select film critics?

NowToronto.com blasts “The Mule” because its main character leverages his “white privilege.”

The Mule is upfront about Earl’s white privilege, his ability to transport keys for the cartel because he doesn’t look like the people he mocks in his loose-lipped, elderly way.

The real person Earl Stone is based upon, like the character, eluded the police partly because very few mules are in their late 80s. Is that Very Old Age Privilege?