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Hatfields & McCoys(TV) (2012)
TV mini-series starring Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton as the head of two families caught up in a bitter feud in 19th century America. The series is based on the real life feud between a West Virginia family and their rivals from Kentucky, which lasted almost 30 years and became a byword for the dangers of family and tribal loyalties. 'Devil' Anse Hatfield (Costner) and Randall McCoy (Paxton) fight side by side in the Confederate army. The two men return home from the Civil War exhausted and seeking peace. However, courtesy of a series of misunderstandings, a civil war abruptly breaks out between the two families that promises to be almost as deadly and divisive as the nationwide war...
For more about Hatfields & McCoys and the Hatfields & McCoys Blu-ray release, see Hatfields & McCoys Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on July 28, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Kevin Costner, Bill Paxton, Matt Barr (I), Tom Berenger, Powers Boothe, Andrew Howard
Director: Kevin Reynolds
» See full cast & crew
Hatfields & McCoys Blu-ray Review
There should be no feud over the technical quality of this Blu-ray release.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, July 28, 2012
I fight only for my own.
"Hatfields" and "McCoys" may not be an indelible piece of the American experience like "baseball" and "apple pie," but it is a part of the American vernacular; even those with only a cursory history of the quarrel know the names to be synonymous with "hate," "fight," and "feud." Indeed, of all the familial sagas in American history, theirs may be the most infamous and certainly readily-identifiable for its breadth, depth, and body count. It's notable for, well, its notability as perhaps the most widely-known family-level event in the nation's history, a national history largely defined by wartime, politics, sports, even organized crime. But the Hatfield-McCoy feud is something far different, involving but the common man engaged in a decidedly uncommon endeavor, a relentlessly bloody chapter in two family histories that not only shaped generations of Americans, but threatened to spill over into something larger and further beyond the scope of a West Virginia-Kentucky border skirmish. Their battles have become American legend and a source of unquenchable fascination. "Hattfields & McCoys" is the latest filmed recount of the feud and one of many fictional and nonfictional histories of America's two first families of violence. It's a detailed, lengthy, bloody retelling, a fascinating glimpse into the people, places, and times that have transfixed Americans for more than a century.
They were one-time friends, brothers-in-arms fighting for the Confederacy during America's Civi War. Anse Hatfield (Kevin Costner, Dances with Wolves) chooses to desert the battlefront, a move which angers longtime friend Randall McCoy (Bill Paxton, Aliens). McCoy is captured and imprisoned by the North but is released upon war's end. He returns home to wife Sally (Mare Winningham), who's no longer emotionally or spiritually invested in the marriage. To make matters worse, Anse Hatfield is living the good life, prospering in the timber business. McCoy clan member Perry Cline (Ronan Vibert), a slicked-up lawyer fresh from the bar exam, efforts to swindle Hatfield's land through false legal premises which Anse sniffs out with ease. Later, Randall accuses a Hatfield of thieving swine; the case goes to court, with six Hatfields and six McCoys sitting on the jury and a Hatfield on the bench (Powers Boothe), which tips the scales of justice before the evidence is brought to light. One thing leads to another, alcohol fuels hatred, a budding romance between a Hatfield (Matt Barr) and a McCoy (Lindsay Pulsipher) complicates the issue, and the McCoy murder of a Hatfield sets off a series of revenge killings, just retribution, and hatred that leads to unspeakable violence and chaos that threatens the entire stability of not only two families and their local West Virginia and Kentucky parts, but an entire nation attempting to recover from a bloody internal conflict.
Some might pine for the "simpler" times of the years following the Civil War, years when honesty appeared king, courtesy seemed commonplace, cabins were built by hand, young love was in the air, a jamboree in the woods was the height of entertainment, and bobbing for apples was considered sport. But for two country families, the late 1800s were anything but simple. Rather than hard work, good times, and an honest living, the era was defined by swindling, dishonesty, broken friendships, accusations, hatred, murder, retribution, and unending violence. "Hatfields & McCoys" offers perhaps the quintessential filmed story of the bloody rivalry, delivering an in-depth and painstakingly detailed account of all the major players, deaths, tit-for-tat exchanges, skirmishes, battles, and tragedies from the origins to the height of the confrontation. The series relentlessly and without remorse piles on the verbal and physical nastiness; "Hatfields & McCoys" is at once both enthralling and revolting in its storytelling prowess and unparalleled honesty in its depiction of the sorrows and brutality that defined the conflict. The latter in particular gnaws at the viewers, even if retributions, killings, planning, and payback seem in some way justified. This is a harrowing, challenging watch, but a rewarding dramatic experience.
"Hatfields & McCoys" benefits from superb craftsmanship and excellent acting. The series offers gorgeous Romanian backdrops substituting for West Virginia and Kentucky; the idyllic, serene, breathtaking locales make for the perfect contrast for the awfulness that plays out within them. The series is consistently visually engrossing, yields an uncanny sense of authenticity that absorbs the audience into the experience and makes them feel every uneven terrain, the crunching leaves beneath the feet, every drop of blood spilled in anger. Director Kevin Reynolds (who has worked with Costner on ambitious screen projects such as Waterworld and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves) frames the action with an eye for capturing the history and specifics of the tale, not simply the run-and-gun violence. However, there are stretches when the series seems unnecessarily drawn out, not thematically or dramatically but rather in those times when it hits the same note time and again, repeating elements, set-ups, and dialogue that don't detract from the impact of the story but slightly reduce its watchability. The good news is that such moments are, generally, few and far between as long as audiences accept that there's really only a basic tit-for-tat flow at the center; largely, "Hatfields & McCoys" rivets the audience with precision character development, effortless interaction, and exacting violence.
What truly shapes the show beyond even steady direction, gorgeous cinematography, wonderful locations, and a captivating story is the effortlessness with which the cast sinks into the parts. There's not a bad effort in the bunch, and there's not even a mediocre effort in the lower ranks of the background characters. From Costner and Paxton down to the smallest tertiary player, "Hatfields & McCoys" enjoys wonderful workmanship in front of the camera. Every actor absorbs not only his or her character but the environment, timeframe, violence, hate, fear, and sorrow that permeate every frame. Tom Berenger is the best of the bunch, playing his role as Anse Hattfield's uncle with an arresting turn as a no-nonsense leader and fighter who refuses to back down from a confrontation. Berenger is completely unrecognizable under the tobacco juice-stained beard, filthy clothes, and worn hat. He handles the dramatic elements and action scenes with equal precision and strength. Paxton and Costner likewise completely disappear into the parts of feuding 19th century country patriarchs. Costner's at home in the Western-styled role as much as he is in a baseball uniform, and while there's none of the latter, this may very well be his most striking, complete performance in any period piece. Power Boothe provides a balanced, towering performance while Mare Winningham delivers perhaps the most complex and sorrowful as Randall McCoy's distraught, disheveled, and ultimately devastated wife.
Hatfields & McCoys Blu-ray, Video Quality
"Hatfields & McCoys" arrives on Blu-ray with a stunning 1080p, 1.78:1-framed transfer. Sony's image dazzles from start to finish. The series plays with a deliberately drained palette. Dim colors and a push to a pale gray is the norm, but the image does enjoy splashes of brilliant hues -- red, white, and blue pennants at a festive get-together and lush natural greens, for instance -- to offset the rather grim proceedings. The HD video photography yields a precisely detailed and consistently crisp but rather inorganic, sterile look; a grittier, grainier appearance might have worked better, and the flat video fašade seems out of place early on. As the series progresses, however, audiences are apt to accept the look as-is and revel in what are some startlingly good details. All of the old wooden planks, chipped paint, frayed clothes, strained facial lines, and fuzzy hairs look absolutely spectacular. Even dust floating in the light against darker interiors will startle audiences with the precision and real-life accuracy. There are some close-ups that are so impressive that the image is worth pausing to examine just how good they looks, even with the drained palette. Black levels are superb throughout, and while flesh tones sometimes favor a pale, ghastly appearance, they're in-line with the rest of the show. Light banding does creep in from time to time, and low-light color transitions can struggle, but this is otherwise an exemplary transfer through and through.
Hatfields & McCoys Blu-ray, Audio Quality
"Hatfields & McCoys" delivers a startling DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack experience. The series open with an immersive wartime sequence. Listeners will feel as if a part of the action, dodging shots and explosions, feeling exploding ground and crackling gunfire erupting from every corner of the listening area. Screaming soldiers and the general din of battlefield chaos create a complete surround sound experience in the opening minutes. comparable action scenes later in the series may be described similarly. Individual gunshots or smaller skirmishes likewise allow listeners to identify distinct pistols shots and rifle cracks. The track delivers wonderful, accurate ambience throughout; Sony's audio presentation works in every speaker in the delivery of drenching rain, buzzing crickets, light breezes, rolling wagons, falling trees, and other environmental atmospherics in the effort to submerge the listening audience in the West Virginia and Kentucky border locales. Bass is tight and deep, strong and accurate in both action and atmospheric support. Music plays evenly and smoothly, focused up front but enjoying just the right amount of rear support. Dialogue is smooth and accurate, balanced and flowing from the center. This is everything a top-rate modern track should be, no surprising coming from Sony.
Hatfields & McCoys Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
"Hatfields & McCoys" contains two extras, both located on disc two, highlighted by an entertaining making-of overview feature.
Hatfields & McCoys Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
"Hatfields & McCoys" is a spectacular miniseries. If there's a fault it's that it's a bit overlong and repetitive in stretches and there are times when it's difficult to sort out the tertiary players who, though not front-and-center throughout the series, still shape the dynamics as much, if not sometimes more so, than the primary cast. But those minor complaints aside, this is riveting, remarkably well-made historical entertainment. The acting is superb, the cinematography wondrous, the direction steady, and the story absolutely captivating. This is the miniseries as polished and enthralling as ever, up there with the best of its kind, including "Roots," "Lonesome Dove," "Band of Brothers," and "The Stand." Sony's Blu-ray release of "Hatfields & McCoys" features dazzling video and audio. Sadly, the extras are rather slim. Nevertheless, this is one of the year's better Blu-ray releases and is a must-own. Highly recommended.
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• Hatfields & McCoys Blu-ray - May 30, 2012
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