You’ve seen it all before – Texas outlaws causing havoc with the cops on their tail. Hell or High Water proves that sometimes you can’t have too much of a good thing.
This film tells the story of two brothers, divorced father Toby (Chris Pine) and ex-con Tanner (Ben Foster), who go on a bank-robbing spree to raise the cash needed to save their deceased mother’s ranch from foreclosure. However, the brothers are being pursued by two Texas rangers, Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) and Parker (Gil Birmingham), which leads to a deadly shoot ’em up showdown.
Before watching Hell or High Water, I didn’t know much about the film, other than it was a modern-day western. To say I was surprised by the quality of the film is an understatement. Hell or High Water is the perfect mix of mindless action and great storytelling. It’s visually excellent with a real sense of atmosphere, and director David Mackenzie does a great job of immersing us into the rough, desert landscape.
The film relies on common tropes of the Western genre, but at the same time it plays out like a crime thriller. There was a time when bad guys wore black hats and good guys wore white, but Hell or High Water presents morally grey central characters. Pine and Foster are exceptional in this film, delivering mesmerising performances, and they’re two of my favourite acting performances in recent memory.
Although Pine’s character is much more introverted, his performance is still equally as good as Foster’s, who brings Tanner to life with arrogance, impulsiveness and even a touch of madness. Tanner has a bit of a screw loose, he does whatever comes to mind and asks questions later. I’d definitely like to see Ben Foster in more films because he’s a great actor, and it’s hard to believe that this is the same dude who played Angel in the very forgettable X-Men: Last Stand.
Despite the film’s frequent quick-pace and raw, captivating violence, the film makes room for interesting character studies. For a film about bank robberies, there is a surprising amount of conversational scenes. This gives the film substance, allowing for these characters to be more believable. Even the two cops aren’t pushed aside and treated as obstacles to be overcome by the brothers. Hamilton is about to retire and he embarks on one last job before he calls time on his career. Jeff Bridges effortlessly fits into the role, delivering his usual charisma and snarky sense of humour. Is this man ever not entertaining in a movie? When Jeff Bridges is on-screen, he just automatically demands attention of the audience.
I enjoyed everything about Hell or High Water, and it’s a film you should watch over the repetitive, typical Hollywood action movies. Commercial titles always obscure the real gems and Hell or High Water is one of them.
Overall: Hell or High Water isn’t exactly revolutionary in its genre, but it possesses a refreshing, unique spirit. Die-hard fans of the Western genre will adore this film and will also love the modern-day twist. All things considered, I believe it’s one of the best films of 2016.
Quoted: “He wouldn’t know God if it crawled up his pant leg and bit him on the pecker.”
Director: David Mackenzie
Writer: Taylor Sheridan
Stars: Ben Foster, Chris Pine, Jeff Bridges.
Distributors: CBS Films (US), Lionsgate (Theatrical)
Run Time: 102 min