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Blu-Ray Review: The River Wild (2023) 

The River Wild

Adam Brody and Leighton Meester team up for a surprisingly effective remake of a 90’s Classic action thriller classic, The River Wild.  New to Blu-Ray from Universal.

The Film 

I’m not sure what I was expecting from The River Wild remake.  I certainly wasn’t expecting a taunt and tense thriller starring the Husband and Wife team of Adam Brody and Leighton Meester.  The reinvention of the already cannily adroit 90s Action Thriller starring Meryl Streep and Kevin Bacon has adjusted and reframed everything just the right amount to create a different take.

Joey (Meester) is getting away for the weekend to sort out in her head her relationship with her boyfriend.  What’s more perfect than a rafting adventure with her Rafting Guide big Brother Gray (Taran Killam)?  The weekend quickly goes south when Joey finds fresh out of prison Trevor (Brody) working with Gray.  Reluctantly, Joey goes along with them and a pair of friends (Eve Connolly and Olivia Swann).  Quickly, though everyone finds out that Trevor is more dangerous than he appears, and the weekend vacation turns into a fight for survival.  

The film directed and co-written by Ben Ketai there’s a lean economical way the film plays out that never goes over the top to the benefit of the film and audience. There’s a serious tone that benefits the film in a way that pushes the boundaries of PG-13 going for intensity over gore.  The film is extremely effective in the way that it doesn’t manage to pull its punches and keeps things performance-based.  

Ketai’s film allows the performers enough room to play out the various dynamics you expect from an intimate thriller of this kind.  The beneficiary is Adam Brody going full-on villain and shedding a bit of that jokester image that’s lingered around him since his television days.  Brody as Trevor is the sort of charming viper that manipulates everyone and as things begin to close in on him and his lies will not work strikes in a way that’s both frightening and cowardly.  The way that he plays off everyone will leave your skin crawling.  

Meester and Killam are both effective in their roles.  Meester especially gives a wounded performance that leans more to survivor rather than “hero” much to the benefit of the film.  There’s an inane empathy that the actor imbues in the role with that grounds the film in a way that works better than the typical “action heroine” or “final girl”.  Many films claim to have a real-world lead but often it’s a shell game for the final third act where they become Rambo.  Luckily, The River Wild doesn’t go there (even if the original did).  Ketai and Meester working in tandem have effectively made a real-world lead female character and by that third act becomes a tense game of predator-prey. 

The River Wild also understands exactly what it is and how to effectively achieve its end even with the limitations of a PG-13 rating. One will be surprised at how rough it’s able to play in those confines.  The result is a surprisingly worthy successor to the original. 

The Transfer

The folks at Universal Home Video showed up for The River Wild.  The transfer is at the very edge of what is possible with the Blu-Ray format.  The razor-sharp image has zero defects or issues.  The film at points is filmed in and around rapids, rivers, and forests.  Basically, a recipe for a transfer nightmare.  Even during the most chaotic moments of those scenes, the Blu-Ray handles those would-be issues with ease.  Color reproduction, contrast, and black levels are nearly flawless. 

The Extras

No extras were included in this edition. 

The Final Thought 

The River Wild remake will surprise and delight fans of the original or anyone looking for an effective low-key action thriller.  Recommended. 

Universal’s Blu-Ray edition of The River Wild is out now

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