Hatfields & McCoys (DVD)

Just a few short weeks ago, the History Channel presented a three part mini-series chronicling the iconic feud between the Hatfield and McCoy families. I think most of us are familiar with these family names and the deadly battle between them.  And while there have been a handful of films made about them over the years, none have been as ambitious as this recent project.

“Hatfields & McCoys” stars Kevin Costner as “Devil” Anse Hatfield and Bill Paxton as Randall McCoy, as two Confederate Civil War officers whose close friendship is broken when their views on the war go begin to clash. When one opts to desert his post, certain that they are going to lose, the break becomes a divide…. and the divide eventually a chasm.  So when the men are reunited years later, the hatred that has grown spreads throughout the families… and the feud is born.

Spanning a period of nearly 50 years, “Hatfields & McCoys” recounts in as much detail as possible the arguments, fights and murders that fueled this long running feud.  But of course, it also introduces the romance that most would hope might quell the anger and put an end to the fighting, and as much as I’d like to tell you here which direction it took the fight, I should not.  

Director Kevin Reynolds, whom I am glad is working with Costner again, has created a lush yet brutal telling of the story. Initially it was spread out over three nights, but of course as I we do not have cable at our house, I missed it all. Thanks to the fine folks at Sony however, the 290 minute epic is available on DVD and Bluray.

When I received the DVD for review, I had to plan on a good time to sit and watch it. (Blessedly – commercial free.) And once I started watching, I couldn’t stop. Costner and Paxton both turn in fantastic performances, which really should not come as a surprise. They were both nominated for Emmys, along with co-stars Tom Berenger and Mare Winningham and they were all well deserved. 

Even less surprising was the fact I learned just yesterday that the film garnered 16 Emmy nominations, again all well deserved. The production value for “Hatfields & McCoys” was as good, if not better than many theatrically released films.

The DVD offers up a sharp image and allows a finely detailed view of both the beauty and the horror of the surrounding woods. The 5.1 Surround Sound perfectly mixes the dialogue with all of the ambient sounds and music. At times the quiet is almost deafening and the simple crackle of a leaf on the ground is as startling as thunder.  When the story takes you into the midst of battle, the atmosphere surrounds you as it should and you can almost swear there are bullets flying just over your shoulder.

Once you’ve settled down from watching the feature, take a look at the ‘Making of’ featurette. It is unfortunately brief, but does offer a little bit of interesting background material. Additionally, there is a music video by Kevin Costner’s band for the song “I Know These Hills.”

I highly recommend “Hatfields & McCoys,” so much so that if it were released in theaters, I would have paid full price to see it.

Directed by: Kevin Reynolds

Starring: Kevin Costner, Bill Paxton, Matt Barr, Tom Berenger, Andrew Howard, Jena Malone, Mare Winningham

Special Features: The Making of “Hatfields & McCoys”; “I Know These Hills” Music Video

Rated: NR

Studio: Sony

Website: http://www.sonypictures.com/DVD