Just Mercy (Blu-ray Review)

Just Mercy was one of those films I didn’t hear about too much at the end of the year.  Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx and Brie Larson should’ve been a huge draw for moviegoers, even with this film being a drama.  The surprising part for me, is that they all shine here (more on that below) and the story is injected with determination, community and love at its core.  Read more on Just Mercy below and be sure to click the paid Amazon link below to get your own copy too!


In 1987, in Alabama, Walter McMillan (Foxx), known to his family and friends as Johnny D., is headed home after a long workday when he is stopped by a police car barricade.  He is removed from his truck, taken into custody and charged with a cold case murder.  He has no prior record, has an alibi, and yet he is currently waiting for his execution day on death row.  In 1989, Bryan Stevenson (Jordan) makes a move from Delaware to Alabama to open a new foundation – The Equal Justice Initiative, that strives to give proper sentencing, reduce charges and provide justice to those serving time for crimes they didn’t commit.  He does this with the help of Eva Ansley (Larson). Immediately Bryan and Eva are hit hard with the harsh truths of the south in those times – the racist landlord refuses to rent the duo a space to work out of after finding out they intend to help prisoners of color find the help they need.

As Bryan visits prisoners, he finds common ground with many of them and wants to offer his help free of charge.  He first meets with Herb (Rob Morgan), on death row for setting a bomb on a front porch in a manic moment of PTSD. He killed a girl, but his punishment doesn’t fit the crime, as his mental health issues are what influenced his crime.  He also meets with Anthony (O’Shea Jackson, Jr.), who has also been serving time on death row for 2 murders he didn’t commit.  When Bryan finally meets Johnny D., he is met with indifference.  Johnny D. doesn’t trust Bryan and Bryan must earn not only his trust, but the trust of Johnny D.’s family and neighbors as well.

At every turn, Bryan and Eva are met with indifference from the chief prosecutor, Tommy Chapman (Rafe Spall). He dismisses the claims, ignores notes, hides evidence, and stands by the decision that put Johnny D. on death row. Fast forward to the early 90’s and Stevenson is still hard at work.  He finds new evidence that another convict, Ralph Myers (Tim Blake Nelson) was interviewed twice and had different testimonies each time. The testimony of Myers could be the defining words that could get Johnny D. back home.

The film unravels in a way that isn’t far from other courtroom dramas.  The true story structure keeps things fairly straightforward, but the fresh air is the stellar acting from everyone involved.  The small parts, the big ones, and the in between all give great performances. Scenes tug at your heartstrings, make you angry, and make you cheer.  This is one of those films that is meant to make you think about how life for people of color still evolves slowly. The fear of things or people being different still exists, and sadly, acceptance continues to ebb and flow.  The film definitely made me think hard about how lucky I feel to have been born and raised in a state where I am not as oppressed, feared or hated as some southern states would have me feel.

I have nothing but good things to say about Just Mercy. The film is spectacularly done. Destin Daniel Cretton has made a wonderful entry to his filmography and his style is subtle, capturing the rural beauty and framing actors in loving ways.  If you love true story films, movies to challenge your thinking, or dramas in general, this is a top-notch pick! Loved it!


  • Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC
  • Resolution: 1080p
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Layers: BD-50
  • Clarity/Detail: The look of the film is nice and sharp. You can tell immediately that this film was once upon a time in the 4K Blu-ray schedule for certain. Had it not made such a small amount of money, this would’ve been a lovely UHD disc. The look of the film is overall of the old school variety. The color scheme is warm, with lovely fall colors throughout.  Interiors and exteriors are rife with small details.
  • Depth: This is not a film of 3D pop, but there are many things to take in from scene to scene. Country dirt, small town shops, and courtrooms all have a great look to them. Depth of field is lovingly recreated here, and the feel is overall quite grand for a small film.
  • Black Levels: Blacks are lovely and very natural. There isn’t an artificial feel to the black levels in any way.
  • Color Reproduction: There aren’t a lot of bright bold colors in this film. Golden hues, blue skies, brown and green grasses, and some reds here and there take the cake for the color spectrum.  The look overall is still very lovingly done here, with those colors shining in each scene, and the stark white of Death Row being sterile and saddening as a big reminder of what good set design can look like.
  • Flesh Tones: Flesh tones are natural and clean here. Beyond the tones, the texture on faces is very apparent, leaving nothing to the imagination.
  • Noise/Artifacts: This film has some grain to it, but it is lovely and complementary.



  • Format(s): English Dolby Atmos, English, French, Spanish and Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Subtitles: English SDH, French, Portuguese and Spanish
  • Dynamics: Another pleasant surprise, that also leads me to believe this was once headed to a UHD disc is a very nice Dolby Atmos mix. Dynamically, there isn’t a ton to work with, but the subtlety of the mix is where it shines.  Moments that need it have a healthy low end and surrounds are used wonderfully throughout. Sonically this could’ve been a flat 5.1 standard mix, but I’m so happy to report it’s not that!
  • Height: Height channels get a few moments to shine, filling the room in scenes involving the courtroom or the jail house. Ella Fitzgerald’s stunning rendition of That Old Rugged Cross gets a moment that hails almost directly from the height channels and give the film one hell of an emotional moment to boot.
  • Low Frequency Extension: The low end comes only a few times, but the deepness of the bass is strong and clear.
  • Surround Sound Presentation: The surrounds are all about ambiance here. Outdoor scenes make use of these channels with nature sounds outside, courtroom chatter and ambiance inside. The sounds of the prison are hollow and echo-y without sounding artificial.
  • Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is perfect throughout.



Just Mercy arrives in the home with a flimsy slipcover and a digital code. Special features are in HD and are as follows:


  • Making Mercy (4:06) – As advertised, an EPK piece about the making of the film.
  • The Equal Justice Initiative (8:10) – A nice piece of Stevenson and his Initiative that is still very much in use today.
  • This Moment Deserves (6:07) – More on the injustices of those in situations of racism, wrongful imprisonment, and understanding things you don’t understand by getting close to them.
  • Deleted Scenes (14:31) – Scenes from the cutting room. One involving a debate between Stevenson and another student at Harvard, one involving Bryan helping a boy being tried as an adult who is also innocent, one where Bryan and Walter talk about the piano, A scene in judges chambers, A scene with Walter’s wife Minnie, and a few more.


These scenes would’ve added length, but not necessarily more weight to the story.


Just Mercy is one of those films you wish would do better, so it would reach the right audiences.  I will no doubt be revisiting the film myself but hope that the home release finds a bigger audience too.  The Blu-ray for the film is top notch, although I feel like there was certainly a 4K disc being planned at some point too. For now, us physical media fans will have to keep on with this excellent Blu-ray and hopefully find the same enjoyment in this captivating story as I did.

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