Thursday, August 11, 2016

Hell or High Water Takes the Long Way Home

Review of "Hell or High Water."
Ben Foster and Chris Pine. (CBS Films)
MOVIE REVIEW
One character in Hell or High Water says it best while shaking his head: “What we do for our family.” That pretty much sums up the entire film. However, it’s hard to describe just what type of movie David Mackenzie’s film is. It is sort of a pot boiler mystery, action, drama, western, heist movie with a little humor thrown in for good measure. It’s part Robin Hood and part Walker, Texas Ranger, but it’s all good. And it’s really a story of four very different men and how they interact with each other.

First, there’s brothers Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster) who couldn’t be more different from each other. Toby is the younger more responsible one who has never gotten in trouble with the law. Until now. He is divorced with two sons and desperately doesn’t want them to follow his lead.
 

Single Tanner has quite the track record including jail time for killing their father “by accident.” He likes guns and doesn’t hesitate to shoot when slightly provoked. While he was doing time, Toby took care of their elderly mother until she died. The only thing that these two really have in common is that they grew up in the same poor household with the same abusive parents. 


Taking place in rural West Texas, the two brothers begin a string of bank robberies from the same chain of banks that are foreclosing the family's farmland. Why exactly? We the audience are brought in late in the discussion, so we don't know their entire story or their motives. Part of the puzzle of this story is to figure out why they do what they do.
 

Then there’s Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) and his partner Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham). Marcus has just a few weeks left on his job before he retires. He’s good at his job, he knows it and while he is looking forward to retirement, he isn’t in a hurry to get there. He is sort of a “good ol’ boy” type of cop who is less than politically correct when it comes to his partner who is part Native American Indian and Mexican. Gil is the quieter one of the duo but also the more tolerant.
 

As the pair of brothers make their way from bank to bank, Marcus and Gil realize that the general public doesn’t have much sympathy for the banks believing them to be responsible for area’s poor economy. The brother’s believe in their mission and tell themselves that they are doing “the right thing.” Whether it is or not is up to audience to decide.

Hell or High Water starts out depressing and doesn’t end much better. The ending isn’t all that neat and tidy either. But the reason to watch this film is for the storytelling and the great characters. You’ll find yourself wanting to know what makes each of them tick and what propels them to continue on with their missions. I’ve never seen Chris Pine so gritty or foul-mouthed for that matter. 


The film has a surprising amount of humor to go along with the mystery of the brothers’ journey. You’ll wonder how it’s all going to end. You’ll make assumptions on some of the plot twists and then still be surprised when you’re right. If you can get past the film’s language, violence and the fact that the film is somewhat morally ambiguous, you’re in for a wild time and a great conversation starter afterward.

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