The Mule Ultra HD Blu-ray Review

Ralph Potts reviews the Ultra HD Blu-ray release of The Mule, inspired by a true story and directed by star Clint Eastwood, it tells the story of A 90-year-old horticulturist and Korean War veteran that becomes a drug mule for a Mexican cartel.

The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )

Film:

Extras:

Audio/UHD Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )

87

Details:

Studio and Year: Warner – 2018
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 116 minutes
Genre: Drama

Disc Format: BD-66
Encoding: HEVC
Video Aspect: 2.40:1
Resolution: 2160p/24

Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, French/Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Bradley Cooper, Dianne Wiest, Andy Garcia, Michael Pena, Laurence Fishburne
Directed by: Clint Eastwood
Music by: Arturo Sandoval
Written by: Nick Schenk
Region Code: A

Release Date: April 2, 2019

“Inspired by a True Story”

Synopsis:

“Broke, alone and facing foreclosure on his business, 90-year-old horticulturist Earl Stone takes a job as a drug courier for a Mexican cartel. His immediate success leads to easy money and a larger shipment that soon draws the attention of hard-charging DEA agent Colin Bates.” – Warner Brothers Home Entertainment

My Take:

Earl Stone (Clint Eastwood) is an elderly man 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 eager 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.

Inspired by a true story, taken from the New York Times article about a 90-year-old war veteran that becomes a courier for the Sinaloa Drug Cartel, The Mule is a character driven drama that features Clint Eastwood on both sides of the camera. I didn’t see it in theaters but, a few friends that did recommended it so, I was eager to check it out. Written for the screen by Nick Schenk who also wrote Eastwood’s “Gran Torino” The Mule has a somewhat similar feel as it paints in fine even strokes in its portrayal of shell of a man who suddenly finds new meaning in his life and through that discovers a way to reexamine his mistakes of the past and seek redemption.

I loved the story. Earl Stone is a straight-talking old codger that has always managed to be cultivate not only his flowers but, his relationships, except for the ones that mattered most, those with his family. The film does a great job with character development, mostly Earl’s but, also setting proper foundation for the correlation of the variety of smaller characters he meets along the way as well as how his interactions with them evolve over the course of the film. There is wonderful interplay, both witty and heartwarming and the story never sinks to audience pandering and intrusive levels of forced melodrama.

Eastwood’s portrayal of Earl Stone is spot on, creating a character that is easy to root for despite which side of the law he is on. The cast is chock full of notables, none of which truly have a defining moment but, each handles their respective parts just fine. The Mule is a bit formulaic but, that doesn’t detract from its thematic impact. I thoroughly enjoyed it and have to give Clint Eastwood his due. He has proven that despite his advancing years, he can still make a splendid film that has wide appeal.

Replay Value:

Parental Guide:

The rating is for language throughout and brief sexuality/nudity.

AUDIO/VIDEO – By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

Audio: 88
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 

  • Dynamics: 
  • Low frequency effects: 
  • Surround Sound presentation: 
  • Clarity/Detail: 
  • Dialog Reproduction: 
  • DSU/DTS Neural:X Rating * (non-rated element): NA

 

UHD Presentation: 86
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 

  • HDR: Dark Highlights: 
  • HDR: Bright Highlights: 
  • HDR: Expanded Color: 
  • Resolution: 
  • Visual Impact: 

 

The Mule comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment featuring 2160pHEVC encoded video and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound.

For its presentation in Ultra HD, The Mule was shot digitally, rendered from a 2K DI and up-converted to 4K. This film was shot with a specific visual aesthetic in mind and that comes through in both its Ultra HD and 1080p presentations. The Ultra HD presentation bests the 1080p version on every level. This isn’t an overly colorful film however its palate of autumn-based hues and sepia tones benefited from UHD’s wider color gamut, appearing noticeably warmer and pleasing to the eye. Resolution gets a noticeable boost as well. Close-ups tend to offer improved refinement and deeper resolvable texture on surfaces and physical features when compared to the Blu-ray. There is little call for visual elements in the film that utilize high dynamic range however bright elements, such as those that take place in the light of day, looked appreciably vibrant, while emboldened low level sequences had excellent depth of field and contrast reproduction. Viewing The Mule in Ultra HD wasn’t an eye opening experience however I found it to be a complimentary improvement over the Blu-ray presentation.

This is primarily a dialog driven film however there are elements in the film that require use of the entire system so its ability to clearly render them is essential. Dialog is reproduced with transparent realism and lucid texture as it is appropriately balanced within the front soundstage. The surround mix utilizes the entire platform to recreate the many acoustic sounds associated with the environments portrayed onscreen. The rear channels contain a mixture of spatial ambience/musical extension as well as directional panning cues that effectively support the front soundstage. This is an enriching audio presentation that mates well with the source material

For those not familiar with the details regarding Ultra HD Blu-ray you can refer to my article that includes some pertinent data on the subject. Here is the link:

Ultra HD Blu-ray Has Come to AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Blu-ray Video:

Video: 92
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 

  • Resolution/Clarity: 
  • Black Level/Shadow Detail: 
  • Color Reproduction: 
  • Fleshtones:
  • Compression: 

 

The Mule comes to Blu-ray Disc from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video.

This is a solid high definition presentation that seems a perfect match for the source material. Colors are naturally rendered with eye pleasing vitality and warm accents. Fleshtones err on the side of pale but remain lifelike in depiction. Images are resolute, with stable sharpness, crisp detail and appreciable subtle refinement. Certain scenes appeared better resolved than others although this appears related to the photography and not the encoding. Contrast is stable and blacks are rich in depth with discernible detail in low lighting and shadows. I didn’t see any distracting signs of video related artifacts and thought that in general video quality was top notch.

Bonus Features:

  • Disc 1: The Mule Ultra HD Blu-ray
  • Disc 2: The Mule Blu-ray
  • Nobody Runs Forever: The Making of The Mule
  • Toby Keith “Don’t Let the Old Man In” Music Video
  • Digital Copy

Final Thoughts:

Inspired by a true story, taken from the New York Times article about a 90-year-old war veteran that becomes a courier for the Sinaloa Drug Cartel, The Mule is a well-crafted and engaging drama that proves that director/star Clint Eastwood still has something viable to offer on both sides of the camera. It comes to Blu-ray from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment featuring solid overall video quality, crystal clear lossless sound and a rather light supplemental package. The Mule is time well spent that deserves a place at the very top of your Blu-ray rental queue.

 

Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:

JVC DLA-RS500 3D/4K Ready High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6-HDR Meter from Spectracal)
Stewart Filmscreen – Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16×9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Electronic Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV7704 Audio/Video Processor
Emotiva XPA-7 Gen 3 Seven Channel Amplifier
Emotiva XPA-11 Gen 3 Amplifier
Panasonic DP-UB820 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton “Ergo” and Canton In-Ceiling Series Speakers
SVS Ultra Surrounds (Gloss Finish in Bipolar Configuration)
Dual SVS PC4000 Cylinder Subwoofers
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) – Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
AC Infinity Aircom T8 Component Cooling Systems