Rio Bravo (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Warner Bros celebrates 100 years and has been doing such with some glorious dives into its historic catalog to bring many classics to the 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray format for the first time. On August 1st, they’ll be debuting Howard Hawks influential Western, Rio Bravo. Starring John Wayne, Angie Dickinson and Dean Martin, it will carry over the commentary by John Carpenter, but no other bonus features. This is just 4K disc and digital copy only. You can pre-order the film using the paid Amazon Associates link that follows the review at the bottom of the page.



When gunslinger Joe Burdette (Claude Akins) kills a man in a saloon, Sheriff John T. Chance (John Wayne) arrests him with the aid of the town drunk, Dude (Dean Martin). Before long, Burdette’s brother, Nathan (John Russell), comes around, indicating that he’s prepared to bust his brother out of jail if necessary. Chance decides to make a stand until reinforcements arrive, enlisting Dude, an old cripple named Stumpy (Walter Brennan) and baby-faced cowboy Colorado Ryan (Ricky Nelson) to help.

Rio Bravo apparently was crafted as an answer to High Noon, but time has proven its fine enough as its own project that most probably don’t even know that connection. Howard Hawks films crafts a town with looming tension and doom in the background as it focuses itself in the study of many characters and their journey in redemption, dealing with their past and choosing their destiny. While its the wrong choice to make, there’s an easy way out on our minds that could happen, but the movie challenges itself by consistently taking the moral high ground and bring the water on the stove to a boil.

While it may not be in may folks’ wheelhouse to think of this as a thriller, the film doesn’t fully lean on it as much as it does being a “hangout picture” as Quentin Tarantino has called it. His film Reservoir Dogs certainly shares a lot character work and structure with Hawks’ Western in terms of storytelling and character building. We have relationships in the town, mounting pressure to do something. Relationships are forged and ended at the same time. There’s a nervous sheriff so focused on the agenda at hand and keeping the law intact that he can’t even take himself to indulge in a smoking Angie Dickinson begging him to just spend a night together. What Hawks does with character and focusing on the relationship while all the terror surmounts in the background and closes in ever so slowly is why this film succeeds in building great stakes.

One particular performance that I think really is the most engrossing and impressive in the film is that of Dean Martin. There are ways back in this era of playing the film, but he gives something really fascinating and feeling almost genuine. “Dude” wanders into every scene looking like he’s unsure of himself. There’s no confidence to him, always a sense that he’s not with it. He’s a drunk, but more in the genuine article, but not showy and sloppy for the screen. Its almost like he’s drunk, but doing his best to sort of disguise it or not act like he is. Martin also gives you a true sense that he wishes to get better but struggles at every chance to do so.

Howard Hawks’ Rio Bravo is certainly one of his seminal and most well revered works in his career. Its influenced many a filmmaker, including John Carpenter who appears on a commentary track for this film. Through the characters and dialogue, you can see how it would inform later generations on their craft. Many can see just a Western, types and shootouts here, but its far deeper than that and shows that there are many important elements that factor into making those stereotypes and a film effective, engaging and impacting.


Disclaimer: Screen captures used in the review are from promotional images provided by the studio, not the 4K UHD Blu-ray disc.

Encoding: HEVC/H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-66

Clarity/Detail: Rio Bravo arrives on 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray with a very lovely transfer. I think many people are going to love the filmic look with the light layer of grain intact. Colors really charm here as well as the image being crisp and carrying plenty of very fine details. This is a handsome looking image.

Depth:  Depth of field is quite good with nice spacing between the actors and background. Movements are smooth and free with no issues of motion distortion. Scale on this is nice, big and wide with good pushback.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and natural and part of why this image looks so stunning. The contrast in many dark interiors in this movie really brings out such a good tone and aesthetic for the film. No information is lost in the shadows. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: Colors are quite rich and lovely here. Clothing fabrics impress in both natural/boring/earthy colors and in the more extravagant. The only

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish. The facial texture and detail is very fine and impressive. You can see very discrete stubble, sweat, make-up lines, wrinkles and more with such clarity.

Noise/Artifacts:  Clean


Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA, French 2.0 Mono Dolby Digital, German 2.0 Mono Dolby Digital, Italian 2.0 Mono Dolby Digital, Spanish (Castilian) 2.0 Mono Dolby Digital, Spanish (Latin American) 2.0 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, French, German SDH, Italian SDH, Spanish (Castilian), Dutch, Spanish (Latin America), Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish

Dynamics: This mono track is quite excellent. It has a nice crisp presentation with no fuzzy analog his as a bass. There’s a depth and clarity to the mix and it features some good layering, depth and decent lower tones coming through 2 channels.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp.


Rio Bravo comes with a redeemable digital code.

Audio Commentary

  • by John Carpenter and Richard Schickel


Rio Bravo holds strong as a great Western character drama and thriller. Warner Bros new 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray for the film is absolutely beautiful to take in and the mono track sounds pristine. Unfortunately, all we are left with bonus-wise is the commentary with John Carpenter. All the featurettes from the Blu-ray aren’t here and that disc is not included. The digital copy does not redeem any bonus features either. A definite upgrade for those collecting.

This is a paid Amazon Associates link


Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com). He is also the Moderator/MC of the Live Podcast Stage and on the Podcast Awards Committee for PopCon (popcon.us). In the past 10 years at Why So Blu, Brandon has amassed over 1,500 reviews of 4K, Blu-ray and DVD titles.

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