Released by: 20th Century Fox
Released on: June 4, 2013.
Director: Harry Thomason
Cast: Henry Thomas, Jesse James, Kaley Cuoco
Year: 2012 Purchase From Amazon
You can’t just slap a white cowboy hat on a dude and call him Hank Williams. It doesn’t work that way. He’s too instantly recognizable, too iconic, and too damn important to the history of American music for that to be a viable option should you decide to ever make a film about his life.
Enter The Last Ride, directed by filmmaker Harry Thomason and with the intent of explaining what may or may not have happened during Williams’ last few days on this planet, before he shuffled off this mortal coil in 1953, well before his time. In short, while this may be packaged like a typical bio-pic, this is more or less a fictional, or at the very least speculative, take on Williams’ ill-fated finale.
The lead is played by Henry Thomas. He wears a cowboy hat and doesn’t really look that much like Hank Williams, nor does he sound like him at all. He’s referred to in the movie as Mr. Wells, or as Hank, but never as Hank Williams. When we meet him, he’s on his way from a show he’s just finished in Alabama to a highly touted New Year's Eve gigs in West Virginia and another in Ohio. He’s travelling by car and joining him on the trip is a young man named Silas Combs (Jesse James), his driver. Silas is a bit naïve, he’s not ever even come close to living the same sort of lifestyle as his passenger, but he means well and he’s happy to help where and when he can. And so as the movie progresses, these two men, not all that far apart in age in the grand scheme of things, get to know one another on the long drive to Ohio and they bond in that way the people bond in road movies like this. Along the way, we realize that Hank simply isn’t going to last a whole lot longer, while Silas falls for a pretty blonde at a gas station (Kaley Cuoco) that they meet along the way.
It’s a bit unclear just what exactly Thomason is going for here. This is obviously not a typical biography turned into a movie, the road movie elements are too strong and it isn’t even close to ‘matter of fact’ enough to really fit that bill. But as a road movie, it meanders and hints at the real life events surrounding Williams’ story enough that, well, it’s not quite a road movie either, even if encounters with various locals and law enforcement officials ensure that the movie hits all the requisite genre beats. Instead, the movie just sort of meanders from point A to point B, arrives at its destination, and ends. It’s not an unpleasant film or even a poorly made one, rather the performances are okay and the cinematography quite nice, but it’s hard to really grasp if there’s any sort of intended deeper meaning to any of this. Characters could and should have been given a bit more depth and quirk, this might have made for something more interesting than what we ultimately get – but if a calm ninety minutes of two guys from different sides of the tracks getting to know one another before the elder dies from his vices sounds interesting, this’ll fit the bill.
The AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer on the Blu-ray release of Last Ride is framed at 1.78.1 widescreen and it looks great. Colors look perfect, black levels are strong and skin looks like skin. There is no evidence of filtering or noise reduction while the image strays consistently bright, clean and colorful as it shows excellent texture and detail throughout. There are no problems with compression artifacts or edge enhancement and aside from some deficiencies inherent in the source material of some of the stock clips and news footage clips used in the movie, Last Ride is a very impressive looking Blu-ray.
The only audio option provided is an English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track with removable subtitles offered up in English SDH, French and Spanish. For a movie that’s heavy on dialogue, the lossless track here is quite involved, and when music is used, it is used well and sounds good. The quieter moments offer some nice subtle ambient noise, such as car ride towards the end. The score sounds good, the dialogue is clear and the levels are properly balanced. This isn’t the type of movie you put on as demo material but for what it is, the disc sounds great.
The only extra is a seven minute behind the scenes featurette entitled A Look Inside The Last Ride. Made up primarily of cast and crew interview clips, it’s a little promotional in nature but it does at least give us some insight into what the various parties went through to get the feature made. Menus and chapter selection are also included.
The Final Word:
The story of Hank Williams is one that is as interesting as it is tragic, but the filmmakers’ decision to blend fantasy and reality the way they do here is an odd one and we don’t really wind up with the character development we need for this to completely work. It would seem those involved had their hearts in the right place, but this one just doesn’t quite gel. To the film’s credit, it looks and sounds great and Fox’s Blu-ray shines in the technical department, but ultimately this is worth seeing only more as a curiosity item than anything else.
Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!