Starring Chris Pine, Ben Foster and Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water plays as if someone turned Michael Mann’s Heat into a western. Los Angeles is swapped out for the dry, dusty and all but deserted small towns of West Texas. This is where we meet the Howard brothers comprised of Tanner (Foster) and Toby (Pine). These two small time bank robbers have a method to their madness and some of their actions are deemed just by the people close to them. Standing in the way of the brothers’ heist is Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton who is looking for one last collar before he rides off into the sunset to enjoy retirement. Hell or High Water is a throwback to the crime thrillers of the 1970s as you find yourself rooting for the brothers as they lead the audience down a path meant for certain doom.
Don’t expect a heist film in the vein of the fun and flashy style of The Italian Job or the Fast and Furious series. Hell or High Water is a down and dirty tale of thieves that makes for an intense watch as the duo systematically knock off banks to achieve their goal. The game of cat and mouse can be a slow burn at times, but it’s once you can appreciate as each actor gets a chance to flesh out their character and make the audience care about the outcome. You root for the robbers at certain points as if they were Robin Hood, but director David Mackenzie doesn’t forget to remind the audience by the conclusion that these are not good guys with their fingers on the trigger.
The superb acting from the three leads drives Hell of High Water as you examine these very different individuals with their own agendas. Chris Pine does the finest acting of his career playing an average joe with zero options who decides to protect his legacy at all costs. You see the fear in Pine’s eyes as a man in over his head in a world he knows nothing about. Tanner on the other hand, revels in the hysteria he is taking part in. Ben Foster steals the show as the thrill seeking ex con of the family with a death wish. Tanner is a loose cannon, but knows the chaos he’s causing will have a point when it’s all said and done. Foster delivers and unlikable character that you can’t help be fascinated with his psyche.
The third man in the mix, serves as the audiences eyes and ears as we uncover the motives of our crooks’ crime spree. Jeff Bridges is fantastic as the old lawman from another time devoid of political correctness, but knows the game as he tracks the Howard brothers through West Texas. Bridges has become a master of playing the sly and gruff types and shows off these skills as the veteran Ranger. It’s enjoyable to watch the ride towards the collision course between the brothers and authorities with Bridges doing a superb job of representing the other side of the coin in this tale of guns and money.
Hell or High Water is also much deeper than one would expect. In the downtime between scores, you get a unique character study about the actions you tolerate and the risks you take when it comes to family. You buy into all three characters due to the tremendous acting from the trio of Bridges, Foster and Pine. Hell or High Water is not a stick up a minute crime tale, but a realistic and even sometimes relatable throwback western noir full of solid acting, heart pounding action and a pace that will have you appreciating the downtime contemplating our players actions as you gaze upon the eerily beautiful tumble weed back roads of West Texas. Some say they don’t make movie like they used to, but director David Mackenzie and his film Hell or High Water proves they do.
Overall, I give Hell or High Water 3.5 out of 4 stars.
Read all T.M.’s reviews here–>Entertainment Now with T.M. Powell