As Clint Eastwood’s first genuinely good movie in nearly a decade as a filmmaker, The Mule was one of the big box office surprises of 2018. While the film grossed over three times its budget in it’s theatrical run, it also proved to be a surprisingly deep performance from the legendary actor. Based on a New York Times article by Sam Dolnick, the film adaptation is a surprisingly effective telling of the true-life tale. Aside from his own performance; Eastwood is able to wrangle of his best ensemble cast since Unforgiven. Including the likes of Bradley Cooper, Laurence Fishburne, Pichael Peña, Diane West and Andy Garcia – among many other familiar faces – Eastwood manages to wrangle the various characters and plotlines in a convincing way.
Despite the solid direction from Eastwood, there’s something about the film that feels slightly hollow. The movie barely scratches the surface of the moral complexity behind the events of the story. For various reasons, the screenplay by Nick Schenk feels like the culprit behind this lack of dramatic weight in The Mule. Although the film is enjoyable enough and well made overall, the screenplay feels serviceable at best. Despite it’s ambition to tell a really expansive story, the film mostly feels hollow because it often favors forwarding the plot over revealing character intricacies. While The Mule isn’t necessarily a forgettable movie, it’s also not a super memorable one. Ultimately, the film is one of the better Clint Eastwood films in the past few decades – even if his bar as a filmmaker isn’t necessarily high to begin with.
Preserving the theatrical 2.40:1 aspect ratio of The Mule, the HEVC / H.265 codec also upscales the 2K negative in a surprisingly clean and crisp fashion. While the movie is a fairly quint experience in terms of the “flashiness” of Yves Bélanger’s cinematography, the picture naturally gets a boost from the disc’s HDR10 capabilities. Contrast is a highlight, as are overall textures and skin tones. The film features plenty of scenes shot using hard light, and the contrast is particularly impressive here. This 4K UHD presentation is intentionally monotone throughout, but pops of color throughout also shine on this disc. Overall, this transfer does a good job of enhancing a pretty interestingly lit film. But the lack of a true 4K transfer, along with sometimes-bland cinematography ultimately holds this disc from truly standing out here.
Presented on 4K UHD with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, this disc offers a serviceable audio transfer of The Mule. Just as with the picture, the audio mix for this release is fairly straightforward. Due to the fact that the film is mostly dialogue based, channel separation is minimal but still present. While the sound mix isn’t a particularly engaging one, there are still moments where it’s also fairly effective. Dialogue is clean and crisp overall, and the scenes that take place outdoors are a highlight. Ultimately, the audio mix on this disc is a particularly quaint experience. Even if it’s mostly effective functionally speaking, it’s also nothing particularly noteworthy or special.
The Special Features
The 4K disc of The Mule only contains the move, while the accompanying Blu-Ray contains the special features. In terms of supplements, this disc is a bit of a disappointment. Although the sole special feature that accompanies this release is much more engaging than expected, the lack of a commentary of deleted scenes are a pretty glaring omission here. This isn’t to say that a whole boatload of supplements are to be expected from a movie like this, but like the movie itself they only scratch the surface of the material.
- Nobody Runs Forever: The Making of The Mule (10:59, 1080p): This surprisingly introspective featurette gives a nice overview of the movie by incorporating interviews, along with intercutting a nice mix of b-roll and footage from the actual movie itself. Covering a nice array of subjects, the only problem with this feature is that it should have been much longer than it actually is.
- Toby Keith “Don’t Let the Old Man In” Music Video(2:54, 1080p): A pretty standard tie-in music video that incorporates clips from the film, while offering a surprising absence of Keith in the video.
As a whole, this 4K UHD release of The Mule is pretty straightforward. If you’re a fan of Clint Eastwood’s work as either an actor or a filmmaker, then this disc is sure to make a nice addition to your collection. If you’re not however, the lack of compelling supplemental material and average technical specs make this a tough sell for fans that are so-so on the work of the legendary filmmaker. Clint Eastwood’s work as a director has always been hit or miss, but The Mule as a movie is certainly the former. However, its 4K UHD home video release probably isn’t spectacular enough to warrant a purchase form average moviegoers.