Hell or High Water (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Hell or High Water 4K ReviewHell or High Water is one of those films which reminds me of a moment in life that I kick myself for missing out on.  The Alamo Drafthouse here in Austin, TX had invited me to cover an advance screening of the film, which included cast members Foster, Pine and Bridges in attendance.  To sweeten the pot this is also the screening where Pine got drunk as a skunk at.  Why did I miss it?  Well boo hoo I did not want to drive downtown and quite honestly knew nothing about the feature.  Rest assured this one was one of the last times in life where I let ignorance get the best of me.  I did end up catching this one weeks later in the theater and guess what.  It landed on my Top 10 list in 2016 over here.  Needless to say I love Hell or High Water and it’s with great pleasure I cover its 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray debut down below.  Giddy up!

Hell or High Water


Hell or High Water went on to be nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Jeff Bridges), Best Original Screenplay and Best Film Editing.  It was written by my main man Taylor Sheridan (Sicario) and directed by David Mackenzie.  As I already mentioned up above Hell or High Water employs the talents of Jeff Bridges, Ben Foster and Chris Pine plus Gil Birmingham.  Now let’s see how does one best describe it?  I suppose I would call it a modern-day western, which is ironic too.  If you know me well, then you would know I’m not all too keen on Westerns.  However, I make an exception for this one.

I’m not going to tell you why, but this one’s a bank robbing tale.  It features two brothers, portrayed by Pine and Foster, who join forces to rob bank branches.  There’s a reason why they are doing so, but what I want to say is they are not necessarily evil because of the crimes they commit.  However, you can’t tell that to a Texas Ranger, especially one played by Jeff Bridges.  His character is set in his old Texan ways and is so close to retirement he can smell it, but hey ho he’s out for one last adventure.  He has the brothers in his crosshairs and will stop at nothing to bring them down.  As for the brother’s life of crime there’s an equal story here of brotherly love and ultimately justice.  And that’s only Hell or High Water from a 10,000 foot view looking down.

I would love to say Jeff Bridges is the glue that holds this whole production together, but that would be a big fat lie.  Yes, he’s exceptional throughout, and very humorous at times with his cliche Texas mannerisms and prejudices.  However, it’s the cast as a whole that shines right down to the littlest supporting character whether it be a lonely waitress or a bank teller.  So performances are paramount, but how about the story?  That in my opinion is what made Hell or High Water one of my favorite films of 2016.

The story within Hell or High Water is picture-perfect, unlike Texas, and propels Tyler Sheridan to the likes of the Coen Brothers here in my opinion.  It’s simple, sweet, endearing, but also grasping, thrilling and riveting all in its own self contained environment.  In other words it’s quite impressive what Sheridan is able to do with such a blah backdrop that West Texas is while at the same time keeping you invested emotionally and even laughing along with the characters.  Yes, it gets dark, but never too much to overstay its welcome.  It’s gritty realism in my opinion and proof that nothing good in life ever lasts forever.  Just because you bicker every day with someone doesn’t mean you don’t love them.  It ends up touching your soul a bit, doesn’t it?  It does mine and by golly even makes me like a Western.  That is a rare feat, hence the film score up above.

Hell or High Water


The below video score and related critique of things here are based solely upon my viewing of the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray presentation of Lionsgate’s Hell or High Water.  The video presentation found on the 1080p Blu-ray Disc has originally been covered here.

  • Encoding: HEVC / H.265
  • Resolution: 4K (2160p)
  • Dolby Vision: Yes
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Clarity/Detail: In Aaron Neuwirth’s original words, “the film’s video presentation is pretty terrific.”  Shot with the Arri Alexa XT, and finished in a 2K DI, the film’s digital cinematography means presenting an image that appropriately feels grounded and real.  However, that doesn’t take from being able to see the dusty and gritty detail found throughout this feature. Close-ups and wide shots both have a clear look to them, which is best exemplified by picking out the features in the vast settings or noting things like bullet holes or other details when getting a closer look.  Textures are exemplary in objects such as wood, clothes and concrete while every single wrinkle and stubble are visible on the human subjects throughout.  One of the finest examples I love in this new 4K presentation is the mist you slightly see when a cold can of beer is open in the heat.  It’s breathtaking if I do say so myself.
  • Depth: There is an excellent presence of depth of field thanks to the many vast outdoor shots., makeshift Texas landscapes and placement of the characters, which really highlights the dimensionality of a given scene.  The onscreen characters all have that three-dimensional pop going on for them.
  • Black Levels: Black levels are quite strong here.  Exterior and some nighttime scenes show a deep and inky image, with no signs of crush.  However, HDR is no help in some of the interior scenes shot against incoming sunlight.  Like for example when the Rangers walk into a diner that only serves steak they are swallowed in the darkness from the direction in which the scene was shot.
  • Color Reproduction: Given the look of the film, color pops up here and there, but without much fanfare. It’s not an issue, but colors are not really supposed to pop. Instead, the film focuses a lot of beiges, yellows and browns to get across a tone. Some scenes set in a casino do add some colorful life though.  Otherwise, everything pretty much has a natural, lifelike dull Texas looking tone to it.
  • Flesh Tones: The skin tones are all pretty much spot on, natural and accurate throughout.
  • Noise/Artifacts: I didn’t notice anything nasty in the presentation.  There is a lovely light veneer of film grain/minor noise throughout that gives it a nice warm and cinematic look to it all.

Hell or High Water


Like I mentioned up above in the video section, the below audio score and critical comments of such are based solely upon my viewing of Lionsgate’s 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray presentation of Hell or High Water.  From the packaging you would think the 4K UHD Disc comes equipped with a Dolby Atmos surround track and that 1080P Blu-ray maintains the original English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio surround mix.  However, you would be wrong.  Sadly there’s no Atmos here only DTS-HD MA, which is fine enough for me because it still manages to sound great regardless.  The original critique of this DTS-HD MA track is covered in the Blu-ray review here.

  • Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 5.1 Discrete Dolby Digital, English 2.0 Discrete Dolby Digital, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital, English Audio Description
  • Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese
  • Dynamics: Hell or High Water sounds great.  It moves seamlessly back and forth between bigger moments and contemplative talking/thinking scenes.  Depending upon your setup too you can falsely mix things into the Atmosphere channels and hear things firing up such as bank alarms, score, soundtrack, a car explosion, gunfire, etc.  All of this too and none of the dialogue ever gets lost in the play.  I love the sense of directionality too like you observe in the left front speaker when a gun is blatantly tossed in that direction onscreen.
  • Low Frequency Extension: The LFE channel gets some moments to play with when it comes to more action-based moments such as a Camaro’s engine revving during a bank robbery escape, gun fire, heavy metal blasting and so much more.
  • Surround Sound Presentation: The film is pretty heavy on dialogue, given all the heist-related action and drama.  However,, there is a proper balance to be found thanks to a good center-focus on the talking and much of the film, with the score and ambient noises playing well in the rear channels in moments such as birds chirping, oil fracking, dogs, cows, slot machines, diner noises, jukebox music and much more.
  • Dialogue Reproduction: The dialogue levels are clean, loud and clear throughout the presentation, which is good when interpreting Southern accents.

Hell or High Water


Sadly there’s still no audio commentary for this Hell or High Water 4K release.  All you get is what has been released before on Blu-ray, a handful of featurettes and a live Q&A.  You also get a Digital HD redemption code too, but there’s still nowhere to redeem it in 4K UHD.  The extras are also found on the 4K UHD disc, but obviously only playable with SDR.  Without further ado here they are!

  • Enemies Forever: The Characters of Hell or High Water (HD, 13:36) – An EPK that basically goes over the entire plot of the film, with interviews gauging the filmmaker’s and cast’s interpretations.
  • Visualizing the Heart of America (HD, 9:28) – A look at the locations found in the film.
  • Damaged Heroes: The Performances of Hell or High Water (HD, 12:24) – A look at the actors featured in this film and what they bring to their roles.
  • Red Carpet Premiere (HD, 1:53)A brief clip mixing footage from the Austin premiere with clips from the film.
  • Filmmaker Q&A (HD, 29:51) – All four lead actors and director David Mackenzie speak about the film, following a screening at Arclight Hollywood in the Cineramadome.

Hell or High Water


I’m gonna finish this one out with a page out of Aaron Neuwirth’s playbook.  He simply states what I really can’t say any better (although I am taking the liberty to paraphrase where I want).  “Hell or High Water is one of the best films of 2016.  Smartly constructed, well-acted and great enough to at least warrant some Oscar nominations.  The film is enjoyable and contemplative, well-assembled and great to recommend for many looking for a solid crime story.  This 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray set features a strong video/audio presentation (sorry no Atmos here though as originally advertised), with a decent set of extras to round out this package.  Seek this one out.”  In other words, it’s worthy of a double -dip now in 4K UHD!


DISCLAIMER: This 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray review was judged and graded using the following 4K certified Ultra HD Premium television set found here and player here.  Make sure to check out all our 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray reviews archived here.


Hell or High Water

Kicks Up Some Dust on

4K Ultra HD Blu-ray

February 13th




Hell or High Water 4K


Owner/Writer/Reviewer/Editor, Dreamer, Producer, Agent of Love, Film Lover, Writer of Screenplays and a Devoted Apostle to all things Ford Mustangs (the real ones with V8's!). Some of my favorite films include FIGHT CLUB, MOULIN ROUGE, THE DARK KNIGHT, STAR WARS alongside television shows such as SEINFELD, 24, SANFORD & SON and even the often loathed in the geek community BIG BANG THEORY. Outside of my three lives I live I also enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and our three girls (of the furry kind).

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