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Adopt a Highway (2019)

RLJ Entertainment

Blu-ray Disc Released: 12/24/2019

All Ratings out of

Movie: 1/2



Extras: No Extras

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/1/2020

I often (all of the time) complain about the lack of original ideas in movies.  Why does everyone seem content to make the same movie over and over again?  (I’ve been scrolling through the streaming services a lot lately and if I see one more “Five friends embark on a journey into the woods” synopsis for a horror film, I’m going to throw the remote through the TV.)  Does the film industry assume that viewers can’t handle something which falls outside of the norm?  Thus, when something different comes along, it must get attention, even if it’s not perfect.  So, I give you Adopt a Highway.

Russell Millings (Ethan Hawke) was just a young man when he fell victim to California’s controversial “Three Strikes” law and found himself with a hefty prison sentence for what should have been a minor crime.  Twenty years later, the law is repealed, and Russell, now a broken man, is released into a world which he does not understand.  He gets a job as a dishwasher and lives in a motel.  He keeps to himself and attempts to understand things like the Internet.  One day, Russell finds a baby in the dumpster behind the restaurant.  Instead of turning it into the authorities, he takes it back to his motel room and attempts to nurture it.  However, this man who had little experience living as a human being will find taking care of a baby very challenging.  This event will also introduce him to the next chapter of his life.

Adopt a Highway marks the writing and director debut of Logan Marshall-Green who is better known as an actor, for films like Upgrade, and for looking like Tom Hardy.  It’s unfortunate that there are no extra features on this Blu-ray Disc, as I would love to know where this idea came from and what some of deeper meanings are here.  With Adopt a Highway, Marshall-Green has created a very quiet movie, where the main character only mutters a few lines throughout the duration of the film.  Within these quiet spaces lies a story which doesn’t contain a great deal of detail, but clearly has a lot of symbolism.  One thing which Marshall-Green certainly gets right is suspense.  One doesn’t go into a drama like this expecting to be on the edge of their seat, but when Russell takes the baby back to the motel, there is a palpable sense that something bad is going to happen.  Due to this, the first half of the film is often nerve-wracking.

Which is why it’s even more surprising when the film shifts gears halfway through.  I won’t give too much away, but the focus moves away from the baby and hones in on Russell looking into his own past.  With this, Adopt a Highway ceases to be a suspenseful drama, and becomes more of a bittersweet character study.  This change robs the film of some of its power.  The third act is very touching, but the manipulation in tone takes the wrung-out viewer and places them into a different frame-of-mind.  It’s not necessarily worse, but it’s just different enough to make the whole thing feel as if it doesn’t gel.

Even with that stumble, there’s a lot of admire here, especially for someone making their first film.  Hawke gives a powerful, understated performance, in which his haunted eyes do much of the acting.  Marshall-Green is clearly making a political statement here, as the movie not only implies that some prison sentences are needlessly harsh, but it also illustrates how incarceration can rob some people of their humanity.  We are never told specifically why Russell decides to take the baby instead of turning it in, but the last few minutes of the film signal that it was a way of seeking normalcy in a world which had left him behind.  At only 81-minutes, Adopt a Highway is brief and to-the-point, but that relatively short running-time houses a movie which packs a punch.  It’s not perfect, but it offers enough emotional power to make it memorable.

Adopt a Highway makes one question then nutritional value of Half ‘n Half on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of RLJ Entertainment.  The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 32 Mbps.  The image is sharp and clear, showing no noticeable grain and no defects from the source materials.  The colors look good, although we don’t get any truly bright tones here, and the image is never overly dark or bright.  The level of detail is good and the depth is what one would expect from a new movie on Blu-ray.  This Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps.  The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects.  Being a quiet drama, we don’t get an abundance of dynamic audio effects here, but there are some notable standouts.  The stereo and surround effects often highlight sounds coming from off-screen, a move which helps to highlight Russell’s restlessness.   A scene at the beach delivers nice effects from the front and rear channels.

There are no extra features on the Adopt a Highway Blu-ray Disc.

Review Copyright 2019 by Mike Long