Hard Target

It’s hard to choose where to direct anger when watching Richard Jewell. Olivia Wilde should know better than to take such a role, playing a now deceased journalist unable to defend herself against a galling, accusatory script. There’s Clint Eastwood too, who after staging a similar scenario in Sully, squeezes out a grossly hypocritical narrative, but framed around a man who deserves to be known. Rather than focus on Jewell, Eastwood interprets reality through a politically distorted, outright irresponsible lens.

Richard Jewell is a shocking film to watch, just not for the dramatic theme. Jewell, portrayed with genuine warmth by Paul Walter Hauser, exists in a perfect lower middle class bubble. When accused of the Olympic bombing in 1996, his mother (Kathy Bates) worries about the tupperware and underwear confiscated by the FBI. At night, Jewell and mom watch John Wayne movies; at work, Jewell sports an American flag fanny pack while accosting college kids, respects authority, and speaks quietly. He owns guns – lots of guns – depicted with a wholesome innocence, but the FBI uses the collection to accuse.

Richard Jewell plays like a grotesque caricature of the now

Then there’s the media, composited onto Kathy Scruggs (Wilde) who curses a lot, opens her blouse, asks others to write her stories (she’s not good with words), and sleeps with sources. There is no evidence to support the latter. Scruggs broke the story that Jewell was a suspect. That was true. Richard Jewell makes that sinful, blaming and branding basic journalistic procedure, while Richard Jewell does the same to fit the conservative view. It’s a mockery, and thoughtless at a time of national division.

What happened to Jewell was tragic. He was an oddball, but an honest one who did save people and represented right. The same as any attack, people want to know the perpetrator; Jewell fit the profile. Those distressed over Jewell being manipulated and denied Miranda rights seek similar retribution from people of color and immigrants – Eastwood has not, to date, spoken about or created a drama around the torture policies enacted post-9/11 to innocent victims who also fit a profile.

Narrative imbalance cheapens the truth. Richard Jewell comes off as smug and arrogant with retrospect, saying nothing of the actual bomber who conformed to a similar profile after bombing abortion clinics for his extreme fringe, right-wing views. Anyone who now feels heartbreak for Jewell is pretending they wouldn’t have left angry Facebook comments to hang the man during the investigation. Richard Jewell plays like a grotesque caricature of the now, rather than 1996. Jewell was a victim – like far too many wrongfully accused others – not a crassly exploited signpost.

Video

Warner forgoes a 4K disc release. That’s a shame since Richard Jewell was finished at 4K. The Blu-ray does look exceptional though, sharp and clean with a minimum of noise. Facial definition shows extensively, naturally clear (aside from the intro, smoothing things to make actors look younger). Exteriors work out the environments, handling large crowds, whether of press or at the Olympics.

Richard Jewell provides deep contrast, excelling in black level reproduction. Shadows hold in all cases, backed by clean highlights. Flashbulbs never let up, and become a character themselves.

Desaturated, the color palette grays out. Rare is an intense primary notable, keeping things a touch below organic for dramatic mood. Flesh tones skew pale (except for Wilde who is given a deep tan). Even at the end with Jewell cleared of wrongdoing, there’s no energy in the palette. The Blu-ray transfers this as intended.

Audio

To put Jewell in the center, the DTS-HD track sends camera clicks and media questions into each channel. There’s a genuine feeling of being in those moments, constantly surrounded, and as such, the track is mixed effectively. This too goes for the first act in Atlanta, with concerts and crowds spreading into positional channels.

For range, the bomb explosion and ensuing music stings bring low-end power. There’s definite weight, selling the moment for its chaos and fright.

Extras

Two EPKs warrant no attention, although the second brings in Jewell’s real mother and lawyer. Sadly, at barely more than six minutes, there’s little room for anything of value.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Richard Jewell
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Ludicrously skewed and weakening any support for Richard Jewell’s unfortunate story, Clint Eastwood ignores any nuance in bringing this to the screen.

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