Adopt a Highway (Blu-ray Review)

Russ Millings has just been released from prison after serving 21 years for a 3rd strike conviction for possessing an ounce of marijuana. As he tries to adapt to a world he doesn’t recognize – including trying to learn how to use the internet – he finds an abandoned baby in a dumpster behind the fast food restaurant where he works as a dishwasher. Unsure of what to do, and caught between impulses of kindness and panic, Russ soon realizes this could be his chance at redemption.


Russ Millings (Ethan Hawke) has had a miserable life – being incarcerated for the past twenty-one years for possession of one ounce of marijuana thanks to California’s 3 strikes law. Finally seeing the light after a lifetime in prison, Russ sets about trying to reclaim some of his humanity. He’s working in slow motion to being a barely functional adult male fresh from prison. The future has sped past him. He works days and nights as a dishwasher and does not know how to use a computer, let alone get an email address to stay in contact with his parole officer and law enforcement as a part of his release.

All of this gets compounded when Russ finds an abandoned baby in the dumpster behind the restaurant. Feeling lost and afraid he takes the child and proceeds to comfort and shelter the baby. Once the law finally arrives to take over – Russ is questioned and intimidated by police. Feeling that there’s nothing more he can do or say to them without possibly incriminating himself he leaves town to try to make peace with his father, who he hasn’t seen since being locked up.

Adopt a Highway is Logan Marshall-Green’s writing/directing debut, with Ethan Hawke also serving as producer. Hawke is captivating and pulls in an Oscar-worthy performance. His character is a such a sad man failed by the system due to being locked away for an ounce of weed. Marshall-Green’s directing hand does not feel heavy handed on his approach to the material. There were a few scenes at the beginning when Russ finds the baby that filled me with dread because I figured that law enforcement would somehow blame him for the baby being in the trash.

As the story moved forward it took on an almost episodic feel to it once Russ left to find his dad. It felt a bit like Kung-Fu, where Russ, instead of Caine, meets people and gets into adventures. Some of these adventures were funny and others were hopeful and even intense. By the end of the film, I was optimistic about Russ and his chances for a new life. I’m really glad that Russ would not continue to suffer on. Adopt a Highway could have very well been a bleak tale of hope being taken away but it was completely the opposite. I think Ethan Hawke was great and Logan Marshall-Green’s directing future is assured.



Encoding: AVC/MPEG-4

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Clarity/Detail: Adopt a Highway on Blu-ray looks stellar. It’s a “dark” film in terms of overall palette all things considered. Contrast and sharpness levels are pristine, as are most of the releases from RLJE.

Black Levels: There are a lot of scenes taking place at night, in darkly lit interiors, and so forth. Those black levels never crush and shadow detail remains intact.

Color Reproduction: Even though the film takes place in sunny California – most scenes are quite muted, outside of an early in at a correction facility and by the ocean.

Flesh Tones: Everyone in the picture looks great – no one looks pasty or sickly. The Blu-ray handles red and olive flesh tones perfectly.

Noise/Artifacts: I did not notice any instances of noise, flicker, or debris.


Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Subtitles: English SDH, French

Dynamics: Adopt a Highway sounds fantastic on Blu-ray. It’s a predominately dialogue driven film but on the grand scale of things – it sounds great on every front.

Low Frequency Extension: The LFE is very subtle but goes a long way in a picture like this. The LFE is more of a functional low-end, which only activates during key scenes.

Surround Sound Presentation: The surround sound channels are fine in terms of ambient effects. For a low budget production, they really expand the sound field depending on locale. Hawke’s character movies around a lot and so does the sound field.

Dialogue Reproduction: Even though Ethan Hawke speaks in a low whisper most of time – dialogue levels are terrific. The same goes for secondary characters and for the vocals during certain songs from the soundtrack.




Adopt a Highway starts out in a semi-dark place but the light of optimism shines through. I had a smile on my face when it ended. The Blu-ray looks and sounds great. It’s a bummer that we have no special features on the Blu-ray whatsoever. I would have loved an audio commentary by Logan Marshall-Green or even Ethan Hawke, but it is what it is. In any event, Adopt a Highway is recommended — it truly is a sleeper hit in this currently crowded marketplace.


Adopt a Highway is available on Blu-ray & DVD!





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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