Hell or High Water – 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review

Hell or High Water

Hell or High Water is one of those rare films that’s so grounded in reality. That’s why the film is so effective as a modern-day Western heist film. It’s a sobering look at the unfair economic hardships that some small town residents face. As a result, you empathize with Toby and Tanner in their quest to only rob Texas Midland banks. Of course, it’s a bit like Robin Hood except they don’t rob to give to the poor.

Although most films would paint law enforcement as the villains here, Taylor Sheridan’s script doesn’t. Hamilton and Parker don’t do anything in the film that’ll make you dislike them. They’re trying to find justice by doing it the right way. So when the inevitable showdown between them comes, you don’t know who to root for.

It helps that the direction of the film is top-notch as well. David Mackenzie keeps the suspense going without really letting go. Just don’t expect to see a lot of action in this. This isn’t an action-packed Western like Tombstone, but a character drama like Unforgiven. Not to mention, the sweeping cinematography by Giles Nuttgen and the marvelous score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis.

Yet a film wouldn’t be good at all if the acting weren’t up to par. Thankfully, everyone is terrific here. There is palpable chemistry between Pine and Foster along with Bridges and Birmingham. It really feels like there’s a brotherly bond between Pine and Foster. Pine subdues his natural charm for something more introverted. He’s the reason why you want to root for these guys. On the other hand, Foster brings a more unhinged performance to the table here. He’s probably a reason why you might NOT want to root for them.

Jeff Bridges delivers his best performance to date as Marcus Hamilton. He’s crotchety but he plays him as a genuinely good person. In turn, Gil Birmingham also does a good job as Bridges’ partner. He’s able to equally throw verbal jabs at him while taking it in turn. It really does seem like they’re partners.

Overall, Hell or High Water is an excellent and sobering look at the struggles of small-town residents. It’s the type of story where you empathize with both sides of the law. Neither are villains and that’s what makes this film so good. It’s a bit of a think piece wrapped around a modern-day Western with a little bit of a heist storyline for good measure.

Movie Review: 4.5/5 atoms

Hell or High Water - Chris Pine and Ben Foster

Hell or High Water hits 4K Ultra HD with a Dolby Vision/HDR10 4K transfer and a 2.40:1 aspect ratio. This review will reflect Hell or High Water‘s HDR10 presentation. Although this is an upscale transfer from a 2K source, the film is still incredibly clear. With a film that’s full of texture, you can easily see all of the detailed nuances of this gritty and dirty film. That means that all of the stubble, stitching, bullet holes, grass, dirt, and mist from a freshly opened can of beer can be seen.

In addition, the black levels are inky and deep without any loss of shadow detail. The use of HDR on the color spectrum is pretty much wasted here. Not because it’s not that good but because the colors are dull by choice. When the colors are vivid (see: casino scenes), the colors pop. Regardless, the colors and skin tones are still natural looking. Overall, this is a great presentation by Lionsgate.

Video Review: 4.5/5 atoms

Hell or High Water - Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham

Hell or High Water hits 4K Ultra HD with a DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track. For a film that’s primarily dialogue, there is still a good amount of ambient music and atmospheric effects occupying the surround channels. When there is action, the subwoofer booms and rumbles. Not to mention, the directional effects are seamless and accurate. This includes bank alarms, slot machines, gunfire, and explosions. The dialogue is clear, crisp, and loud throughout. Which is great since the film is mostly dialogue. Despite the fact that the 5.1 mix is the same as the regular Blu-ray, this is still a terrific mix.

Audio Rating: 5/5 atoms

Special Features
Hell or High Water - Chris Pine and Jeff Bridges

Hell or High Water‘s 4K Ultra HD disc doesn’t have any special features on it. However, the regular Blu-ray contains the following special features:

  • Enemies Forever: The Characters of Hell or High Water
  • Visualizing the Heart of America
  • Damaged Heroes: The Performance of Hell or High Water
  • Red Carpet Premiere
  • Filmmaker Q&A

As you can see, there’s not a lot of material here. However, what’s there is more substantial than you might expect. “Enemies Forever” is easily the best featurette on the disc. It goes in-depth and breaks down the story and characters in the film. It’s a nice look into the psyche of all these characters. “Visualizing the Heart of America” is a bit boring to watch yet it’s nice to watch to see all of the sweeping Texas landscapes in there. It’s truly a beautiful place. “Damaged Heroes” breaks down what each individual actor brings to their role. It’s not as interesting as you might expect because nothing interesting is revealed in this featurette. You can essentially skip the rest of the special features.

Special Features Rating: 3/5 atoms

Overall, Hell or High Water is a great modern-day Western that’s full of great performances. It’s also a thought-provoking and sobering look at the state of rural areas today. The video and audio presentations are excellent all-around. The special features are a bit lacking yet you will learn more about the film by watching them.

Overall Rating: 4.5/5 atoms

This Blu-ray was reviewed using a retail/advance copy/unit provided by Lionsgate Home Entertainment.

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