The Mule (Border Run) (2013)
|Year Of Production||2013|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Gabriela Tagliavini|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Sofie Talbert (Sharon Stone) is a right-wing TV journalist in Phoenix Arizona exposing politicians she believes are soft on illegal immigration. Her brother Aaron (Billy Zane), however, has a different view working for a relief organisation across the border in Mexico. One evening Sofie rings Aaron when he is actually in the process of bringing a group of illegals across the border. On the phone Sofie hears some shots, then silence, and she is unable to contact Aaron again. The audience is soon aware that Aaron is being held prisoner, and being tortured, by a gang of people smugglers led by the brutal Juanita (Giovanna Zacarias).
Sofie travels across the border to Mexico to try to find her brother. The police are uninterested, so Sofie turns to Roberto (Manolo Cardona), a co-worker of her brother who takes Sofie to the last place Aaron was seen, a shack near the Mexico / US border fence. But the trail seems to end there until Sofie contacts Javier (Miguel Rodarte). He is involved in people smuggling and is a friend of Aaron. Javier has a group of people about to make the border crossing and believes that by going with the group he may be able to discover Aaron’s location. Sofie also joins the group of illegals, and as fate would have it they are picked up by Juanita’s gang to be smuggled across the border. When Sofie’s identity is revealed, things become very dangerous indeed for her.
The Mule (also known as Border Run) is from first time writers Don Fiebiger and Amy Kolquist and a director, Gabriela Tagliavini, with only a few features on her CV. It does however feature a couple of known actors in Sharon Stone and Billy Zane. Sharon Stone was very prominent in the 1990s appearing in Total Recall (1990) and Basic Instinct (1992) and being nominated for a best actress Oscar for Casino (1995), losing to Susan Sarandon for Dead Man Walking. Stone has struggled since and decent roles for women over 50 in Hollywood are limited to say the least, but here she does a reasonable job. On the other hand Billy Zane, who can be very hammy in his acting, (The Scorpion King 3: Struggle for Redemption (2012) anyone) has very little to do, being chained up for most of the picture.
The issue with The Mule is not the acting however but the screenplay. The film is “inspired by true events” and certainly illegal immigration is a hot political topic in south-western USA, no less than it is in Australia. So the plot of the film is interesting and topical and there is nothing wrong in taking a limited perspective and using the tribulations of a small group of illegals, including a heavily pregnant woman and her husband, an asthmatic young man and a pretty teenage girl, to examine the issues. The Sharon Stone journey in search for her brother does have relevance to the theme, with Sofie’s journey of self-discovery and her change of heart about the plight of the illegals being a main story arc. But the writers seem to feel that the topic of illegal immigrants does not provide enough material or drama so they throw in a drug trafficking plot for good measure and a few chases and shootouts in order to come to some resolution which undermines what has gone before. As well, some of the writing is very poor, such as the romantic sequence between Sofie and Roberto in a bar which not only slows down the plot but is also embarrassing to watch.
The Mule has some important things to say about the violence and poverty faced by illegal immigrants, as well as the corruption by officials on both sides of the border, something that I am sure is equally the case of those fleeing violence and persecution in their homelands and trying to get to Australia. If The Mule had developed some of those ideas instead of veering off into action and drug trafficking it could have been a more coherent and interesting film. As an action film however it has its moments and Sharon Stone is still worth watching.
The Mule is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. The original ratio is not listed in the IMDb, although the Region A US Blu-ray release aspect ratio in reviews is given variously as 2.35:1 and 2.40:1. I think the original ratio would be 2.35:1 as the film does look cropped on our Region 4 release, with characters out of frame.
The print has good detail in close-ups, although distance shots are not as sharp. This is in line with the colour scheme; much of the print’s colours have been taken out giving the desert landscapes an intentional dull and glary look. Brightness and contract also vary, although skin tones are fine. Blacks are good, but some scenes are very dark and shadow detail can be indistinct.
The print shows some blurring with motion against vertical surfaces, such as the metal wall at 56:5, and a fair bit of digital noise in some darker scenes but marks were absent.
There are no subtitles as such, although burnt in white subtitles translate the sections of Spanish dialogue.
The print is OK but is not in the original aspect ratio, an automatic 1 mark deduction in accordance with site policy.
Audio is an English Dolby Digital 5.1 track at 448 Kbps, with sections of Spanish dialogue.
Some of the dialogue was hard to hear due to accents or soft speech which was unfortunate as there are no subtitles. The surrounds did supply music and effects, including gun shots, and on a couple of occasions became very enveloping. The first example was the sound of the truck engine reverberating through to the illegals hidden in the tank on the back of the truck, which added to the claustrophobic feel of the scene. The second noticeable use was the sound design during the rape sequence. The sub-woofer adding bass to music and effects was appropriate.
The original music by Emilio and Sebastian Kauderer was augmented by some Mexican songs. It was effective, providing good support to the visuals.
Lip synchronisation is fine.
The audio track was good, except for some indistinct dialogue.
|Surround Channel Use|
Nothing at all, not even a trailer.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The Mule is released on DVD in Region 1 US under the title Border Run. It has no extras but is listed as being in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. There is not currently a version released in Region 2 UK. The aspect ratio makes the US release the version the choice.
If The Mule had concentrated on the theme of illegal immigrants and Sofie’s journey of self-discovery instead of veering off into action and drug trafficking it could have been a more coherent and interesting film. As an action film it has its moments and Sharon Stone is still worth watching.
The video is OK but in the incorrect aspect ratio, the audio is good. No extras, but no other release has any either.
|DVD||Sony BDP-S580, using HDMI output|
|Display||LG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||NAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.|
|Speakers||Studio Acoustics 5.1|