Geek Review: Hell Or High Water

Ben Foster and Chris Pine both had movies this past summer that were, to put it bluntly, not as much fun as fans might have hoped.  And I say this as someone who generally liked Star Trek Beyond.

This has been a bizzaro year, where all the best movies for the summer that weren’t Suicide Squad were being saved until August, give or take a gem here and there.  Another film with Pine and Foster, and Jeff Bridges for good measure, opened recently, and I got to see Hell or High Water.  How was it?

Great movie, actually.  I really dug every second of it.

The movie opens with the Howard brothers, Toby (Pine) and Tanner (Foster), robbing a small bank in what looks like a pretty poor town.  Right away, we learn Tanner is a firebrand who has actually done some jail time for bank robbery, and Toby is basically the smart one who’d rather not use violence.

After robbing a second branch of the same bank in another nearby town, the case catches the attention of the Texas Rangers, particularly old Marcus Hamilton, days away from retirement, and he’s soon out with his Native American partner Alberto.  Bridges could probably play an irascible old cowboy type like Marcus in his sleep these days, but he doesn’t phone in his performance in any way.  The film is much stronger as a result.

Despite both the cops and the crooks, the real villain of the movie may be faceless bankers.  Much of the film is set in an economically devastated part of central Texas.  Many shots show boarded up businesses, foreclosed homes for sale, and billboards advertising quick loans and debt relief.  And that’s when the characters move through towns.  Much of the rest of the movie is set in the middle of nowhere, and no one seems to have much sympathy for the banks.  Marcus can’t get witnesses to cooperate, and even the Rangers find time to shake their heads over what happened to that part of Texas, though Alberto as a member of the Comanche tribe has some interesting thoughts on land ownership.

Fitting well in a film tradition that includes classics like Bonnie and Clyde and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, this movie was just a blast, with good solid performances from the cast, a fantastic script, and solid direction.  This was a movie that used the setting well, and made the setting a part of the overall story.  That doesn’t happen nearly often enough.  I’m giving this a solid ten out of ten burning fields.

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