Hickok 4K UHD Blu-ray Review

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Hiccup

Parts of Hickok seem like utter fantasy. New to the role of Abeline town Marshall, “Wild” Bill Hickok (Luke Hemsworth) bans guns in the city limits after a small child takes a bullet in the leg. It seems unfathomable now and especially so in a tense, immediately post-Civil War America.

Hickok doesn’t match his legend in this slim, often cramped film. He quickly settles down into the role of lawman. Most squabbles lean toward Hickok’s personal issues, including a relationship with a local, Mattie (Cameron Richardson) and her abusive fiancee, saloon owner Poe (Trace Adkins). The set-up doesn’t stray from the evident cliches.

Hickok suffers from haphazard construction. The actual production is in view through the camera, from the restrictive location to careful edits as to not reveal the separation of actors. Cast members appear to have filmed their roles on different days, without direct interaction.Maybe the cast couldn’t take staring down the eye of B-level performances as Hickok succumbs to one eye-rolling line delivery after another. Better to act facing a wall than against these stiffened actors. Even Hemsworth struggles with emotive value, and a bit part from Kris Kristofferson never rises above a dry mumble. Supporting players further erode the legitimacy.

Slim production values match the value of the material

The key failure is in making Hickok himself screen worthy, or at least giving a defined reason as to why this specific portion of his life needed to reach the screen. Slim production values match the value of the material itself. Hickok’s derivative western heroics lean on good/evil gunfights or stare downs, with clearly drawn archetypes on each side.

All of Hickok is placed in the least interesting segment of his life. Prior, he’s unrestrained and earning the “wild” portion of his name. Later, he’s a partially blind lawgiver, near to being shot dead for his newfound status. Here, he struts through Abeline, hires a deputy with little impact to the greater story, and saves the girl – and none of this happens with even a drip feed of excitement. Hickok is too clean, and even its stance on guns disappears once deeper into the personal saga. It’s a film leaning on nothing and the pale historical value is better read in a high school history book.

Video (4K UHD & Blu-ray)

Normally on DoBlu, we separate the video formats. For Hickok, there’s no reason to do so. The two discs look identical – and it’s not a positive outcome in either case.

Filling in the expectations for UHD, this specific disc comes out the loser. Without deep color, HDR, or anything resembling 4K (Hickok looks shot for TV at 1080p), there’s a reason to double check which disc is inserted into the player. If there is a difference, it’s in black levels. The UHD sports a mild boost to depth over the standard Blu-ray, notable during the darkened room that makes up the final action scene.

The pair, though, suffer identically from heavy pockets of noise throughout. During a conversation between Hemsworth and Kristofferson (just prior to the finale), the teal walls swarm with chroma artifacts. Encoding on both discs, despite significantly boosted bitrates on UHD, suffer from notable compression faults.

Generally dusty in hue, color work gives Hickok a sepia tint, typical for such period work. Flesh tones exhibit warmth, a notch or two above natural. Heavy, sun scorched contrast follows even into interior scenes. Faces take detail hits as overlit cinematography barrels into the scenery. Wavering fidelity and inconsistent focus at the source further erode the visual quality. Some close-ups perform well. Most are middling.

Audio

DTS-HD is used on both discs, delivering equal audio performance. That’s a shame. Dialog carries an unusual grit for a new production. It’s not gravely voices of the Old West rather grainy, roughed up analog quality that sounds over compressed.

General surround use, in spite of the generic and stock sound effects, does spread around the soundfield. Strong debris fields and saloon ambiance establish a sense of space. Opening moments during the Civil War track canon fire and bullets, even without much LFE support to accentuate scale. The latter lacks for the entire film, robbing Hickok of weight.

Extras

A trio of deleted scenes end under three minutes while a typical making of called The Road to Abilene carries just past the 14-minute mark.

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.

The 15 unaltered images below represent the Blu-ray. For an additional five Hickok screenshots, early access to all screens (plus the 7,000+ already in our library), exclusive UHD reviews, and more, support us on Patreon.