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The Mule (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

The Mule 4K ReviewClint Eastwood returns to the role of filmmaker and actor with The Mule.  I am personally always excited to check out a new Eastwood movie. Whether he is acting or directing, stylistically he always seems to strike a chord with me as a viewer and film fanatic.  This particular movie did just that, although with a few odd detours.  Follow down below as we explore everything about The Mule, which was recently released on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray this past Tuesday (April 2nd).

The Mule (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Film 

Earl Stone (Clint Eastwood) has made a life for himself as a horticulturalist. He takes pride in his flowers and at traveling the country schmoozing with flower fans and passing out ever popular free bulbs to make sales. He is a divorced father whose relationship with his ex-wife and daughter is the epitome of estranged. He sends postcards to his granddaughter, who despite his absence loved and accepts him for how he has chosen to live his life. Right out of the gate you see two sides to Earl. At flower conventions he is a charmer — the people there love him. He is a people pleaser trying to make his living. Within his small (former) immediate family, there is immediate tension just at his random presence.

Flashing forward 10 years, the flower business goes awry and Earl loses nearly everything, save for his beat up pickup truck, Earl goes to visit his not so happy family to celebrate his Granddaughter’s engagement. . When the appearance doesn’t go over well, he leaves, but is approached by a party guest who gives him a phone number that he promises will give Earl a job opportunity. From there, we are taken on an unlikely journey for a man in his late 80’s.

When Earl arrives in Texas to a garage he is asked to pull in, is handed a package and a phone and given explicit instructions to follow… Drive to a hotel, park, leave your keys, wait for a text and come back in an hour. Simple enough, Earl returns to a package gone and an envelope full of cash. Too good to be true? Could be.

Following the setup the audience is treated to a simple story of a senior citizen drug mule. At first, Earl is attempting to get his business back. He wants his old farm and to be able to make his living how he loves. When the money begins to increase with each run, he is able to buy a new truck, pay for a part of his granddaughter’s wedding and more. He begins to see a way of redemption for his family and he truly wants to reconcile. His ex-wife (Diane Wiest is a small yet wonderful performance) and daughter (played by Allison Eastwood) both start off with no reasons to want to reconcile. Their feelings are hurt and he was the definition of absentee.

The Mule becomes interesting when we see Earl’s integration into the drug world. He is charismatic and charming — even to some of the toughest in the trade! He makes drug lords, handlers and other seedy guys smile, relax and build trust. Friendships are formed and he enjoys the perks of the life. He indulges in good liquor, easy women and some excess. Along the way, he also continues to give back to his family and to his friends and community. Despite his job choice, Earl continues to try and be a good man.

With all that in such a simple storyline, you’d forget that the entire time Earl is a mule he is always just a few steps ahead of the DEA (in a team played by Bradley Cooper, Michael Peña and Laurence Fishburne) and that they have yet to realize that Tata (as he is known by the cartel) is actually an elderly man. Cooper and Peña are on autopilot here. They are nice to see as a team but their appearance is more or less basic. The whole DEA storyline to me is far less interesting than the rest of the film.

As a whole, The Mule is a interesting character study. Eastwood is always great at finding a simple story to tell and making you care for the characters in the little world he is presenting. This film is no different. Clint Eastwood continues to be a great actor with his facial expressions, character quirks and easy demeanor reach out to the audience. He plays well with others here (there are quite a few other great actors here in small roles, some used well, others not so much…) and we see a nice bit of humor mixed in with the drama as well. The film sags in the DEA storyline and I had a thought of how much less interesting this movie would have been without someone like Clint Eastwood as the star. All that aside, I  enjoyed this simple story of a drug mule in his twilight years. There is a great use of classic music, nice road trip style driving scenes and interesting vignettes of family moments and drug cartel excess and tension. In short, if you’re a Clint fan, a true crime fan or a drama fan, you can find a lot to like in The Mule.

The Mule (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Video 

  • Encoding: HEVC/ H.265
  • Resolution: 4K/2160p (filmed at 2.8K and  3.4K)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2:40.1
  • Clarity/Detail: Clarity for The Mule is excellent. Right from the opening you’re treated to beautiful outdoor textures with fields of flowers and a blue sky landscape. This continues in the many scenes of Earl on the road. There aren’t many, if any, times where the image appears soft. The interior scenes, especially those at the Head of the Cartel’s compound are just as rich as those we see in the outdoor shots.
  • Depth: The Mule has a fairly typical depth detail. You’re treated to true to life depth but in truth this isn’t the type of movie meant to “pop off the screen.” The image is never flat though as evidenced by all the rich detail throughout as mentioned above. Just don’t expect Earl to come driving through your living room.
  • Black Levels: Blacks are reproduced quite lovingly here. There isn’t a graying to any blacks and in darker scenes you get that inky dark without being subjected to any crush or artifacts.
  • Color Reproduction: HDR is on great display here. You are given great bright highlights in daytime scenes. The use of a natural color palette is evident in many scenes indoors and out. There is never an artificial feel to the colors. Saturation is good overall and there are many standouts in terms of colors, be it deep greens or even sandy muted beiges. This is a simple movie but I loved the look, color wise.
  • Flesh Tones: Flesh tones are very faithfully reproduced here. There is nothing artificial here. You can see every facial artifact from wrinkles to blemishes. Skin color is varied from the multicultural cast. There is no loss of detail in the look of anyone in the film and everything overall looks very natural.
  • Noise/Artifacts: None

The Mule (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Audio 

  • Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Subtitles: English SDH, French, and Spanish
  • Dynamics: Dynamics for The Mule are spot on for a drama. The sounds of the road are presented in a straightforward way. Music is a big sound source throughout. Sounds of gathered crowds, nature and passing cars are what you hear most besides the dialogue which is presented typically front and center.
  • Low Frequency Extension: Music, Cars and Gunshots are the LFE mainstays for this mix. This is a dialogue driven film, so this isn’t one you’ll want to use as a showcase disc.
  • Surround Sound Presentation: Surrounds are used for ambient sounds, road noise, party chatter, and other natural sounds.
  • Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is front and center for this release. There is great emphasis of the center channel throughout.

The Mule (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Extras 

As with most mid-range releases, The Mule features a minuscule amount of extras — A featurette and a music video plus the usual Digital HD file.

  • Nobody Runs Forever: The Making of The Mule (10:59, 1080p) – is a 10 minute EPK Feature about the making of the film. There’s not a lot here to savor.
  • Don’t Let The Old Man In by Toby Keith (2:54, 1080p) – A music video with scenes from the film.

The Mule (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Summary 

The Mule is a solid crime drama from an interesting true story. Through the eyes of Actor/Director Clint Eastwood we are treated to a good human story about going to great lengths to make changes that have been much needed.  We get some interesting story, meaningful performances and a very satisfying overall film. This is a sure thing purchase for fans of dramas and also for those who like stories about the world of drug cartels.  This isn’t a movie to challenge the brain but isn’t recommended for movie fans who need wall to wall action.  A few stale moments aside, I had a great time watching The Mule. The picture quality is great and the sound quality is also quite good.  This is a slow burn type of film, but for me, it’s a good one!

*

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The Mule 4K Review

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