Rio Bravo (Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray)

A small-town sheriff in the American West enlists the help of a disabled man, a drunk, and a young gunfighter in his efforts to hold in jail the brother of the local bad guy.

August 9, 2023 4 Min Read

Review by: Matt Malouf

Plot: What’s it about?

While I am a moderate fan of the western genre, I don’t hold it in as high regard as many. I still enjoy some of them, but that’s the extent of it with me. Rio Bravo is one I had always heard of but didn’t sit down to watch until more recently. With John Wayne, Dean Martin, and Rickie Nelson in the lead, you could do a lot worse. Dean Martin has always been a favorite of mine as he simply exhibits that cool factor that’s missing from a lot of contemporary stars. While I prefer 3:10 to Yuma (even more so, the 2007 remake), this is still a winning experience. It is one that I am sure many have seen time and time again. And for good reason, as it holds up remarkably well.

After a man named Joe Burdette (Claude Atkins) is arrested by Sheriff John T. Chance (John Wayne), Joe’s Brother, Nathan (John Russel) plans to break him out. With tension rising in the town, the Sheriff enlists the sudden help of Dude (Dean Martin) and Stumpy (Walter Brennan). One is an alcoholic and the other is elderly, but they’re the best that the sheriff can do on short notice. Colorado (Ricky Nelson) enters the picture as something of a hotshot rookie who decides to help. There’s a romantic angle here, and the tension escalates quickly. It helps that the characters here are well defined and well written. Certainly, the actors bring gravitas to their roles, but it starts on the page. Certainly, the first half of the film is more talky than the action in the second, but I like the way it sets up the situation and the characters so we care about what’s to come.

The endless high praise for Rio Bravo isn’t for naught as the film kept me with it. Therein are some slow spots, but overall, this is a truly effective western that has far more pros than cons. The pacing in some sections would be the only true con I can think of. It has a great story, great cast, plenty of action and tension as well. I won’t say it’s my all-time-favorite western, but it sits at the top.

Video: How’s it look?

With a 1.85:1 HEVC 4K transfer, this disc has cleaned up the image tremendously. Westerns lend themselves nicely to the HD format (when done right) and this is no exception. The colors and contrast here are impeccable. Viewers should feel very pleased with the results here.

Audio: How’s it sound?

The DTS HD mono track is more than appropriate for a film of this age. There isn’t the range but all else seemed fine to me. The clarity and crispness I had come to expect was present. I had no issues understanding any lines. Like the transfer, this track presents the film well.

Supplements: What are the extras?

  • Audio Commentary – Filmmaker John Carpenter and historian/critic Richard Schickel provide a nice chat. This is an engaging and well-rounded track that doesn’t leave any stone unturned. It should more than suffice.

The Bottom Line

Rio Bravo is a western that has it all: Great cast, great story, nice cinematography and plenty of action and suspense. This 4K set is great on the technical level, but it loses some great extras found on previous editions. It’s entirely up to the consumer if that warrants the upgrade or not.


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