The Western genre meets up with daytime family drama in Kevin Reynold’s historically-detailed Hatfields & McCoys. Originally broadcast on the History channel this past spring but strong enough production values for HBO or Showtime, this three-part miniseries leaves no stone unturned in its exploration of America’s most well-known and oldest (having its origins in 1863) family feud. This famous family battle is a longstanding historical event that has been included in almost everything. From Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to Walt Disney cartoons, it is even rumored to be the inspiration for the television game show entitled “Family Feud”.
There is little doubt that the Hatfields and McCoys have entered into a sort of permanent residence inside our collective consciousness. For the History channel, this hostile and often violent feud gets a fresh coat of ruby red paint with soaring performances from Kevin Costner as "Devil Anse" Hatfield and Bill Paxton as "Ole Ran'l" McCoy. Both men spit and chew their words and actions with a burning pride. Both are guilty for making every wrong turn that led their families into generational battles. And both performances are stellar.
Fighting through until the end of the Civil War on the Confederate sides, Anse and Randall are at their wits end. At the crossroads of sound judgment, Anse deserts his men and chooses family life over never ending battle and, eventually, Randall is taken prisoner by the North. Of course he’s going to blame Anse. To make matters worse, Anse is thrust into a disagreement between his Uncle Jim (Tom Berenger) and a McCoy who fought for the Union.
You know it won’t end peacefully and, knowing how important family pride was at the turn of the century, when a wrong is committed neither side of the Hatfields or the McCoys back down. It’s easily one bad call after another…which makes for some really entertaining television. Written by Ted Mann and Ronald Parker, Hatfields & McCoys doesn’t fool around with who started the conflict. You know the guilty gun. What it does do nicely is take some factual evidence and play it out for dramatic purposes.
Keep in mind that this is a nugget of our American history exalted to mythic proportions by a three-part miniseries. There’s a natural rise and fall to the events on the screen, but – for the most part – each part is grossly entertaining. Are there slow parts? Yes and they are noticeable. Sometimes unforgiving and obvious. Was there really enough material? Maybe not, but you probably won’t mind. The drama is that real.
The five-hour running time really comes into question when the miniseries itself slows to some fairly common soap operatic relationship moments, but the entertainment value and engrossing performances from Matt Barr as Johnse and Lindsay Pulsipher as Roseanna really do sell the whole Romeo and Juliet angle. Honest performances from Jena Malone, Powers Boothe, Boyd Holbrook, an unrecognizable Tom Berenger, and Mare Winningham also seal the whole epic scale of the narration in scope and execution.
Reynolds (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Waterworld) has a great eye for the dramatic knows how to pull off the pacing demands of a miniseries. Great care has gone into designing shots that linger on the seemingly insignificant only to divulge their meaning as the series develops. Foreshadowing and suspenseful elements are perfectly in place to spread out the sense of dread and doom that ultimately follows this unforgiving and prideful feud.
The feud officially ended in 1991, but that didn’t stop these two families from entering into our American folklore lexicon for the ultimate metaphor of bitter fighting. Now, thanks to a fine production and a wonderful cast, the feud can be brought to your house on blu-ray. Hatfields & McCoys is available now.
What are you waiting for? Choose a side, pick up a weapon, and fight!
MPAA Rating: This title has not been rated by the MPAA. TV14 V-S-L-D
Director: Kevin Reynolds
Writer: Ted Mann, Ronald Parker
Composer: John Debney, Tony Morales
Cast: Kevin Costner; Bill Paxton; Matt Barr; Tom Berenger; Powers Boothe; Jena Malone
Genre: TV | Western | History
Tagline: Hatfields & McCoys
Memorable Movie Quote: "I count them mine enemy!"
Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Official Site: www.history.com/shows/hatfields-and-mccoys
Release Date: May 28, 2012
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: July 31, 2012
Synopsis: It's the true American story of a legendary family feud-one that spanned decades and nearly launched a war between Kentucky and West Virginia. Hatfields & McCoys, a three-part miniseries, showcases an all-star cast led by Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton. It chronicles a clash of clans that inspired passion, vengeance, courage, sacrifice, crimes and accusations, while forever transforming the two families and the region they lived in.
English SDH, French, Spanish (less)
English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German SDH (less)
Available on Blu-ray - July 31, 2012
Screen Formats: 1.78:1
Subtitles: English, English SDH
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (2 BDs)
Playback: Region A
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents its family feud in a finely detailed 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode. The panoramic views of Romania's mountainous valleys are simply soul-stirring. Filmed with the Red Epic camera systems, the digital-to-digital format is impeccable. Detail registers throughout in clothing fibers and hair follicles and landscapes that seem untouched by man. While there aren’t a lot of bright lights and warm colors flushing the detail out, the secondary hues are strong with a solid case to be made for the stylized muting of the colors. Daylight exteriors are full of detail and great depth and the night scenes, marred only by some inconsistent black levels, are also strong with details. The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack whips all the speakers up into a flurry of sound for a total immersive experience. Movement of dialogue and ambience across the speakers is flawless. Crank it up!
For its five-hour running time, the supplemental material feels a bit too light in the saddle. There is simply nothing of substance here. At the very least Sony could have included the Costner-narrated Hatfields & McCoys special that aired after the original broadcast. What we get instead is a music video comprised of scenes from the miniseries and a half-hour look at the story, the cast of characters, the design & costuming and other areas of the production. Pretty standard stuff. Boo.
- The Making of ‘Hatfields & McCoys’ (30 min)
- “I Know These Hills” Kevin Coster & Modern West Music Video (4 min)