Movie Name: Hell or High Water
Studio: Sidney Kimmel Entertainment
Release Date(s): May 16, 2016 (Cannes Film Festival)/August 12, 2016 (US)
MPAA Rating: R
Toby Howard (Chris Pine) has just lost his mother and a mortgage on the family ranch is threatening to take that as well…and oil has just been found on the property. With his ex-con brother Tanner (Ben Foster), Toby plans to get the money to pay the bank one way or another and robbing the bank’s branches to pay the loan could be the solution. With a retiring Texas Ranger named Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) and his partner Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham) trying to predict the robbers next move, time is running out to pay off the loan and having something to give to his family is all Toby wants.
Directed by David Mackenzie, Hell or High Water is a crime drama with western themes. The film was released to critical praise and a strong run at the box office. It was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Bridges), Best Original Screenplay, and Best Editing.
Westerns were a dying art. In recent years, new westerns have begun to surface which takes different approaches to the western. The post-modern western (often set in modern settings) are an interesting new area of exploration…and Hell or High Water is a great entry into this trend.
The movie has a lot of what has made other neo-westerns good. It has a lot of similarities to No Country for Old Men. You have two “bad” guys that are anti-heroes by attacking the system and you have a somewhat racist cop who has the best intention. The line between good and bad is blurred. It is obvious that Tanner is unbalanced, and Marcus’s only friend is his partner Alberto who he makes racist jokes to…the real enemy is the unseen “Man” who is causing all the grief.
The cast is great. With this and True Grit, Jeff Bridges has proven himself as the grizzled southern man and shown his range as the Dude. Both Chris Pine as the “good” brother who permits all this to happen and Ben Foster as the “bad” brother who is unstable are a great yin-yang. I also really like Gil Birmingham as Bridge’s suffering partner who knows Bridges really doesn’t mean any harm with his racist insults but you can tell it still bothers him.
The setting in the dusty Texas town is perfect. It is both desolate and there is something pretty about it as well. It is dying America, but it also America at its core. Like the characters, there is a yin-yang to it that propels the whole film.
Hell or High Water is possibly a new classic. It is pretty accessible and can appeal to both fan of art house movies and standard movies. The movie has a lot to say and says it in an interesting way that keeps you thinking…and it does it without making it a three hour+ epic. Hell or High Water is definitely a movie of the times.