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The Mule (Blu-ray Review)

Eastwood stars as Earl Stone, a man in his 80’s 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 a Mexican 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. 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

Earl Stone (Clint Eastwood) is a hardworking down-on-his-luck 80-something year old trying to carve out a living, while trying to keep the peace with his estranged family. He’s not an inherent bad guy, he just has a die-hard work ethic that makes be an absentee husband, father, and grandfather. He means well but is constantly being derailed by circumstances beyond his control. These circumstances tend be related to changing trends, technological advances, and efficiency systems. Earl just doesn’t have a shot.

After showing up to his granddaughter’s birthday party, one of her friends gives him a referral for a “courier” job. Once Earl find out what that entails he goes along with it, because, hey, what’s a couple kilos of product gonna hurt, right? Well, after he sees how much money there is to be made being courier for the cartel, Early gets hooked on the adventure, the cash, and everything that goes along with the life of a courier. The stakes are beyond high in this “game.”

I remember watching the trailers for this and thinking that they were intense but because I had sort of soured on Eastwood’s more recent films and his political stances – I wasn’t really feeling the vibe on The Mule. I’m glad that I gave the The Mule a chance because ten minutes in and I was laughing my ass off at how clever Earl’s interactions were. One situation after the other brought out the chuckles. Yes, I know that each of his predicaments could bring instant death, but like Earl, I went for the ride.

Somethings that should be stated is that in some instances, Earl did get off quite easy in terms of certain interactions. He had many interactions with general bystanders and law enforcement and got off way too easy. There were times where I could not distance myself from these predicaments due to the fact that if it were any other person of color, or minority in general, that would not have gotten the benefit of the doubt. Yes, Earl is in his 80’s, but he’s an “old white man” who doesn’t look very threatening. In terms of context, that’s the point, but overall, a double-edged sword. I do see why the cartel picked him for deliveries.

With that being said, I thought his interactions with the primarily Latino cast of supporting character was awesome. I’m a native Spanish speaker and the majority of the dialogue in those scenes was pretty awesome and authentic. Bradley Cooper makes an appearance as the law enforcement official hot on the trail of the master courier.

Again, The Mule was an overall pleasant surprise. There’s enough goodhearted humor along with some scene of intense drama and action that will satisfy most movie-goers. I enjoyed it for the most part and I think Eastwood did a fine job in front and behind the camera.

 

Video

Encoding: AVC/MPEG-4

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Clarity/Detail: The Mule on Blu-ray looked great, or about as good as it could. Contrast and sharpness levels were constant and steady. I did not notice any instances of boosting or tweaking.

Depth: The images that featured a bright color palette definitely had more pop and depth than muted scenes. This wasn’t an issue, though, and the themes in the movie favored that stylized look.

Black Levels: Black levels were deep and inky – I did not detect any scenes with visible crush.

Color Reproduction: The color palette was often muted, with exception to scenes taking place in Mexico or out in the woods in the middle of nowhere. Banding was also not an issue.

Flesh Tones: Flesh tones looked nice and natural.

Noise/Artifacts: Noise and artifacts were not a problem on this Blu-ray release.

 

 

  Audio

Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD MA 5.1, Spanish, English Descriptive Audio 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

Dynamics: The Blu-ray audio is just a smidgen off from being a demo-disc and that’s mainly due to a lot of scenes being quieter than normal – we can’t blame the film, obviously, but that’s how it goes. The Mule’s DTS 5.1 lossless track does a fantastic job with the soundscape.

Low Frequency Extension: The LFE channel kept the low-end bumping, especially during the one scene in Mexico, at the big party. The rest of the time, the LFE channel enhanced the bass levels that were already there.

Surround Sound Presentation: The surround sound channels kept pace with what was happening – lots of ambience and miscellaneous objects creeping around in the back helped balance out this lossless audio presentation.

Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is clean and crisp – even during the scenes where some of the cast speak Spanish – dialogue levels were quite consistent.

 

Extras

The Mule has only two extras to speak of. There’s a standard featurette that chronicles the making of the project and a Toby Keith music video. Both are presented in HD. The Blu-ray set also includes a DVD and Digital HD Copy of the film.

  • Making of The Mule: Nobody Runs Forever: Join actor/producer/director Clint Eastwood and the all-star cast and crew of The Mule as Eastwood makes his bold return to the big screen. (HD)
  • Toby Keith “Don’t Let the Old Man In” Music Video (HD)
  • DVD
  • Digital HD Copy

Summary

Well, if The Mule is to be Clint Eastwood’s final send-off in terms of directing then there’s absolutely zero shame in that. The Mule features an almost fun, naive, and carefree performance. The Blu-ray itself features stellar video and sound. The special features are nothing to write home about. Color me surprised at how much I enjoyed The Mule – it is recommended.

 

The Mule is now available on Blu-ray!

ORDER NOW!

 

 

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Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

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