Review: Hell or High Water
Chris Pine and Ben Foster play siblings who are currently on a spree of bank robberies through Texas due to a personal grudge with a particular branch. On their trail are soon-to-be retired Texas Ranger Jeff Bridges and his part-Mexican part-Native American partner Gil Birmingham. Forces are set to collide. Buck Taylor turns up briefly as a gun-toting robbery victim, and Katy Mixon plays a flirty waitress.
Directed by David Mackenzie (something called “Starred Up” with Ben Mendelsohn) and scripted by an Oscar-nominated Taylor Sheridan (who also scripted the solid “Sicario” and has a cameo here), this 2016 film is a really simple story well-told, well-acted, and well-shot. It’ll remind you of films like “One False Move” and probably the Walter Hill-Ry Cooder collaborations, but not in any rip-off kinda way.
You’re on the edge of your seat from the get-go because Ben Foster is playing a bank robber and one of our leads. He’s Dennis Hopper and Bruce Dern rolled into one. He’s gonna get a great role one of these days, and is pitch-perfect here as the more unpredictable of the two brothers. We also get an immediately good score by Aussie musicians Nick Cave and Warren Ellis (the latter having worked with the former several times including as part of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds), as well as a fun cameo role for Buck Taylor (son of the late, great Dub Taylor) playing exactly the kind of role a guy named Buck Taylor would play in a Western-tinged crime-drama. Look out for Katy Mixon in a really nice extended cameo doing a Southern fried version of a Jennifer Tilly-type. She’s great fun. Chris Pine gets the lead role and he’s solid, but he gets upstaged by absolutely everyone else just the same. Especially Jeff Bridges. Settling nicely into his Kris Kristofferson meets Slim Pickens phase, an Oscar-nominated Bridges is authentic and compulsively watchable in a very showy character part. He- and the film- are also surprisingly funny, especially Bridges’ rather Eastwood-ish racial banter with his half Mexican half-Native American partner (solidly played by Gil Birmingham). It really is quite a funny film, I mean it’s a comically bad idea to rob banks in a state where everyone’s a gun-toting cowboy. However, there’s also a bitterness to the humour, as there’s some real anger concerning the way the bank has screwed people over. I absolutely loved the film’s ending too, with a lingering threat of unfinished business. It’s perfect.
Well-made, appreciably good-humoured crime yarn that isn’t quite a Western but is certainly very, very Texan. This is really solid, assured stuff with a fine cast and not overstuffed with unnecessary detours, without being undernourished either.