HELL OR HIGHWATER Review

Hell Or High Water (2016)
A Review By Ben Hunter
4½ Out Of 5 Stars  

GET TO THE POINT BEN!

A western that saddles and straps you in, never letting you fall off the whole way through!  Giddy Up!

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“Git ‘Er Done”, rob that bank that is.  In a modern day yet still a very traditional western (no horses though), we journey with two brothers in a time of financial frustration.  Tanner (Ben Foster), fresh out of prison for trouble within his own family, is the hot head, the trigger happy, older brother who conducts himself as he pleases.  Toby (Chris Pine), is the remorseful and reserved younger brother, fearful for the mischief they ensue but continues because of his predicament with his ex-wife and two sons. 

So we fear for them.  As the two embark on monetary gains for lifestyle security, the creeping lesson that “crime doesn’t pay” seeks to remove such gain from the brothers.  Hot on their trail is Sheriff Hamilton (Jeff Bridges), in the quirky voice and manner that Bridges so eloquently displays in his western proclivities.  Previously resembled in a more traditional sense in The Coen Brother’s 2010 Western True Grit.  With his partner, Hamilton inches closer and closer as the brothers rob bank after bank.  Rounding the ropes of the saddle to a stallion leading us to remember that no bad deed goes unpunished, whether you think so or not.  That our mind is important.  For it can willfully be what eventually leads to our own demise. 

In this crime/heist thriller, director David Mackenzie captures the humanity of the parties involved on both sides of the law.  We start to delve into what it’s like to be in the middle of a messy family and feeling trapped with no way out of the hole you put yourself within. 

We feel what it’s like knowing you’re doing real good in the world by bringing criminals to justice and fulfilling all the  reasons and feelings as to why you signed up for the long arm of the law in the first place.  But everyone is human.  And the relationship between Hamilton and his partner Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham) was interesting to witness unfold.  How Hamilton pushes closer and closer to the line, maybe having crossed it a few times before, and how Parker deals with it trying to establish boundaries while not overstepping his superior.  Yet, when push comes to shove, they have each other’s backs. 

Tanner (Ben Foster) and Toby (Chris Pine) ponder their future as they struggle for monetary gain.  
I loved how this film is a sleeper.  Just creeped out of nowhere and all of a sudden is an Oscar hopeful.  I’m talking a legitimate shot at actually winning the big pot of gold this season!  With Bridges’ supporting performance and the relationships on both sides of the law, they’ve got a lot going for them this year.  I would’ve liked a little more clarity though in some story points with the financial jargon (Chris Pine’s character has to get the financial documents to the necessary people “by hell or high water”/pronto to save the family farm) and the quick clarity in some areas to move the narrative along like with Katy Mixon’s character.  Not to mention westerns already have more work to do to impress me and win me over from the get go, just a personal thing I guess. 

Still, I loved the southern “twang”, and how efficiently the culture of West Texas and southern living was depicted.  I could identify with the relationships of each the characters, Toby wanting to do right by his sons and ex-wife (Marin Ireland) who all hate his guts; Tanner wanting to be a guiding light for his little brother, Hamilton wanting to do his job and shut the whole thing down.  There were clearly some well drawn out banter that gives the “cherry on the top” effect to a story with a personality.  A complete meal down to the T, with a special brand of steak sauce, homemade gravy, and a chilled iced tea to give it full meaning and real definition … not just meat and potatoes.  Good character development is always a good sign for an intriguing and engaging story.  Something that will definitely keep your attention the whole ride through. 

However, deep down I can just feel a future movie later this season with good character development as well, yet with a more magnetic story (I initially overlooked Hell or High Water because the trailer looked boring and unappealing) will take the cake. 

Nevertheless, this is definitely a must see.  And not just for us artsy, movie geeks to giddy up with. 

Hell or High Water (2016)
Crime/Heist/Western, 142 Minutes, R
Screenplay By: Taylor Sheridan
Directed By: David Mackenzie
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Gil Birmingham, Marin Ireland, & Katy Mixon

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