Friday, April 12, 2019

The Mule 4K Ultra HD Review

Reviewed by Sean Ferguson
Earl Stone (Clint Eastwood) is a man in his 80s who is broke, alone and facing foreclosure of his business when he is offered a job that simply requires him to drive. Easy enough, but, unbeknownst to Earl, he’s just signed on as a drug courier for the cartel. He does well—so well, in fact, that his cargo increases exponentially, and Earl is assigned a handler. But he isn’t the only one keeping tabs on Earl; the mysterious new drug mule has also hit the radar of hard-charging DEA agent Colin Bates (Bradley Cooper). And even as his money problems become a thing of the past, Earl’s past mistakes start to weigh heavily on him, and it’s uncertain if he’ll have time to right those wrongs before law enforcement, or the cartel’s enforcers, catch up to him.
Film (4 out of 5 stars)
Clint Eastwood stars and directs this film that focuses on an eighty-year old Korean War veteran named Earl Stone, who is more comfortable growing flowers and attending horticulture events than being with his own family. That love and professional devotion has cost him his marriage and his relationship with his whole family with the exception of his granddaughter who tries to keep a connection with him. 

Things have taken a turn for the worse for Earl, whose business sales have plummeted and he is having a hard time financially. The bank is repossessing his house which leaves him homeless without any kind of a safety net. When a friend of one of his granddaughter's bridesmaids tells Earl of a way to make good money just driving, Earl jumps at the chance out of desperation. Earl doesn't ask any questions which turns out to be safer for him as he has just become a drug mule for a mexican cartel who are using Earl and his truck to transport drugs and weapons.

For Earl, the money is too good to resist as he's able to do the things that mean something to him like saving the local veteran's watering hole, getting a new truck, getting his house back, and paying for his granddaughter's wedding and education. He even gets along with the local cartel members who grow to see him a grandfather type and look out for him. The cartel as a whole is pretty good to Earl under Laton's (Andy Garcia) leadership. That changes when Laton is no longer in charge and the cartel becomes far more ruthless in their dealings and expectations for Earl. 

To make matters worse, the FBI is intensifying their efforts to stop the cartels, led by Colin (Bradley Cooper), Trevino (Michael Pena), and their boss Carl (Laurence Fishburne). The noose starts tightening around Earl as he juggles the impending death of his ex-wife and the threats from the cartel who won't tolerate any deviation from their plans. By the end of the movie, Earl is going to have to decide which is more important to him and live with the consequences. 

The Mule was an enjoyable movie and I always enjoy seeing Clint Eastwood in a role. I also admire him as a director, and this film was well done across the board. It doesn't have the same impact as say Unforgiven, but it does offer a strong story and interesting characters and shows a different side of Clint than we are used to. The fact that the small supporting roles are filled with top notch actors should tell you of the appeal of appearing in one of Eastwood's films. This film offers a nice slow build of tension as Earl (and the audience) begin to understand how deep into trouble he is getting in as the outside forces surrounding him begin to close. This is a great movie that's focused on an age group that doesn't get a lot of screen time. 
Video (4 out of 5 stars)
Despite being upscaled from a 2K intermediate, The Mule's 4K presentation is fairly strong and offers natural colors in a realistic way. The movie's muted color palette was a deliberate choice, so this isn't going to be a reference disc in any way, but it gets the job done and the 4K obviously is the better choice between that and the 1080p option. 
Audio (4 out of 5 stars)
Like the video quality, this DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix isn't going to win any awards but it also delivers the dialogue heavy movie's lines crystal clear. There's not a lot of action on this mix, but for a dramatic movie this does just fine.
Extras (1 out of 5 stars)
The extras on this set are very disappointing. None are included on the 4K disc, but on the Blu-ray disc, you get two small extras. I wish they had at least included a director's commentary.

  • Nobody Runs Forever: The Making of The Mule - This is the only good extra included, but this short look at the film includes comments from actor/director Clint Eastwood, producer Kristina Rivera, screenwriter Nick Schenk, actors Ingacio Serricchio, Andy Garcia, Alison Eastwood, and Bradley Cooper, as well as comments from some of the other cast and crew. This is interesting but way too short. 
  • Toby Keith "Don't Let the Old Man In" Music Video - If you are into Toby Keith, then here is a video for you.
Summary (3 out of 5 stars)
The Mule is an enjoyable film from Clint Eastwood that takes elements from a true story and adds some dramatic license to it. The cast is very good in their roles and the film nicely builds up to a suspenseful finish. The video and audio quality are good but the lack of substantial extras hurts this set. However, if you are a fan of Clint Eastwood as an actor and as a director, then this is an easy film to recommend. 

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