HTS Moderator , Reviewer
HTS Overall Score:82
“Mud” surprised me when I saw it first. Matthew McConaughey has usually played very “light” and “fluffy” roles over his career. Content with being the pretty boy with the perfect abs. However, lately he’s almost been reinventing himself and exploring some of the darker echelons of the acting community, giving himself over to characters that are a complete opposite of his previous roles. Normally he does decently well, but in his last few roles he’s out done himself and falls so deeply into this characters that it’s almost impossible to recognize him. “Killer Joe” and “The paperboy” come to mind, both of these characters so radically different from the usual “McConaughey” fare that you wouldn’t recognize him if it wasn’t for his appearance. Here it’s no different. “Mud” is a coming of age story mixed with a crime thriller. There’s really two stories at play here. One is the story of Mud, a down and out man on the run from the law, and the second is a “Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn” type adventure for too young boys.
Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland) are two typical 14 year old boys in the Arkansas backwoods. Working with their parents during the day and then gallivanting off into nature to have an adventure when they can. Finding a boat stuck in a tree on a remote island in the bay, they decide to make it theirs and create a hideaway of sorts. The only problem is that there is someone already living there. A down and out man by the moniker of “Mud” has made their new fort his home. His problem is that he’s waiting for his girlfriend Juniper (Reese Witherspoon) to show up so that he can run away with her. It seems that he’s got a few guys looking for him and can’t really leave the island so he makes a deal with the boys. If they can get him some food and help him out a little he’ll leave them their tree-fort-boat safe and sound in a few days. Ellis finds something that resonates with himself and Mud and decides to help the guy out. Sneaking him food and the occasional spare part that Mud needs he creates a bond with the hoboish man. It seems that both Ellis and Mud have the same problem. Both are in love with a woman and both longing for something that they can’t have. Seeing this spark in Mud prompts Ellis to try and make sure that Mud doesn’t suffer the same fate as his separated parents and can actually find true happiness with his woman.
Mud entreats the two boys to get a message to Juniper when they spot her in town. Now things get complicated when the boys are intercepted by a man in a suit who’s beating up Juniper when the boys arrive. Upon returning to Mud they find out that it’s a bit more complicated than they expected. It seems that Mud killed a man in protection of Juniper back east and that the man’s family is out for revenge (which explains his hiding out on the island). As time goes on it’s clear that Juniper is not all that she’s made out to be and that maybe Mud isn’t the complete hero that they were envisioning. The lines between right and wrong, hero and villain become blurred and the boys have to come to grips with the fact that life may not work out exactly as they had planned. The film comes to a climatic ending when Mud has to come to grips with the same realization. Sometimes life doesn’t go as planned and you have to adapt. Mix that in with a posse of bloodthirsty killers looking for revenge and you can see where it’s headed.
As I said earlier, “Mud” surprised me a little. Seemingly a simple crime story it unfolded into so much more. The coming of age story between the two boys was strangely reminiscent of “Stand by Me”, even the haircuts and the outdoor adventures were eerily similar at times. McConaughey has come a LOOOOOOOOOOOONG way from the goofy pretty boy who just smiles charmingly at the camera as women swoon over him. I could recognize the physic but he completely absorbed himself into the character of Mud so well that he was nigh unrecognizable otherwise. A gritty, antihero of sorts he’s a master of manipulation and completely sympathetic at the same time. The two child actors here were very decent considering their age. So many child actors these days are so laughably bad that their scenes are nearly cringe worthy. Tyler Sheridan and Lofland were both quite competent at portraying …..well.. boys.. that it was completely natural and believable. There’s even a few cameos by some acting geniuses. Michael Shannon, as Neckbone’s uncle” was only there for a few moments here and, there and Sam Shepherd was only in the film a few moments, but their additions were beautiful and helped create a bond of believability and emotional resonance with both Mud and the young boys.
Director Jeff Nichols has made HUGE strides in his directing career compared to. “Take Shelter” (also starring Michael Shannon) and his other earlier films. The movie is much more cohesive and paints a sweet and endearing picture of two souls, both a bit a victim of circumstance who are looking for something better. Looking for the love and affection of another person. For Mud it’s a bit of a realization that he actually has to let go of things, while with Ellis it’s a realization that growing up means something different than what he thought it was. Relationships come and go, adapt and change, honor is something to be strived for and the heroes he looks up to can be just as confused and wandering as he himself feel.
Rated PG-13 for some violence, sexual references, language, thematic elements and smoking
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=12407[/img]“Mud” is presented in a 2.39:1 AVC encode by Lionsgate Home Entertainment and is a very solid picture throughout. The colors are mainly browns and yellows that portray a rather picture that just seeps mud, grime and dirt from its very pores. There’s quite a solid display of other colors as well, but the yellows, oranges and browns give it a rather surreal and gritty feel to the movie without giving in a thick layer of grain or other digital blemishes to get its point across. Detail is stunning throughout giving a solid kick in the visual department. The dirt and grime is picture perfect on Matthew McConaughey’s face and body and even the little bits of Acne on Tye Sheridan’s childlike face is apparent under scrutiny. Skin tones are spot on contrasts are kept well within reason. The only real problem I had was in some of the dark scenes. The Yellows and browns mixed with deep blacks tended to almost “smear” so to speak, during deep dark scenes. The blacks are inky enough but that surreal, gritty color tone seemed to make it a bit more difficult to see in the dark. Overall a very fine picture with just a few flaws to keep it from an even higher rating.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=12408[/img]The audio for “Mud” is a treat for the ears. Being that this is a very dialogue driven film you’d expect nothing but a front loaded sound track. Luckily for us that is far from the case. While there are plenty of dialogue laden scenes the surrounds are used with brilliantly, bringing forth the smooth ambient noises of the river or the crunch of feet upon the sand. Cars wiz past us on the freeway and bullets whistle over our shoulders. Dialogue is clean and clear, with the ONLY compliant being that the southern accents sometimes seemed a bit thick and made one have to strain to hear the local colloquialisms. The dynamic range is nice and balanced with short, explosive bursts of ferocity, especially in the film’s conclusion. LFE is used as a simple low end to the film, giving it a deep and rich feeling, even though most of the time the sheer LFE power we kept well under control. A beautiful track, filled with subtle nuances and a feeling of gentle cleanliness is refreshing and stunningly well crafted
• Director's Commentary
• A Personal Tale
• The Arkansas Ensemble
• Southern Authenticity
• The Snake Pit
I would have to say that this is Matthew McConaughey’s defining role. He’s made some great leaps and bounds in the last few years in his acting career, but not since Killer Joe have I seen him put so much love and care into his acting career. For once I’m genuinely proud of his acting skills and I hope this is just a taste of the greatness he can achieve. “Mud” is a much softer and emotionally satisfying take on the southern fried drama that he’s been experimenting with lately and comes across more mainstream as well. The film takes a look at what being a man and growing up is really about, whether you’re a boy looking up to a hero or a boy in man’s body who has to come to grips with that realization. Definitely recommended for a nice introspective look at what it means to be a man…or not be one.
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Michael Shannon, Reese Witherspoon
Directed by: Jeff Nichols
Written by: Jeff Nichols
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, Spanish DTS 5.1
Runtime: 131 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: August 6th, 2013
Buy Mud Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Buy It
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