I love movies. I love writing about them. Hope you like reading what I write.
Before I begin this review, I must warn you that my experience in the cinema was soured much by having to sit 3 rows from the screen. I know some of the cinema going public love being that close, but my policy ever since watching movies six feet above me when it was “movie0time” in Primary School has been always to sit Centre-Centre.
Hell or High Water is a West Texas set bank heist drama directed by David Mackenzie. We simultaneously follow two bank-robbing brothers and two cops who are after them.
In all truth, this movie seems very similar to Ben Affleck’s terrific film The Town. It focuses on a theme of brotherhood in harsh circumstances, one of the bank heisting brothers is a loose cannon and both are more interested in the drama between heists than heists themselves.
This film surpasses The Town though, by a big margin.
Chris Pine and Ben Foster play the two brothers. My problem with Pine in the past has been that his characters are pretty much always either too egotistical and obnoxious or they put across a hero charm that is not earned by his performances. This is the first time I’ve seen him act in a role which had more than one layer to it.
Ben Foster plays a kind of Joe Pesci character and is pretty good at it.
What stands out here is the relationship between Jeff Bridges as a retiring State Trooper and his partner, a half-Native American, half-Mexican played by Gil Birmingham. Their scenes together are genuinely hilarious at times. The entire theatre was laughing more during this film than in Bad Moms, which I promise you is not a bad comedy.
I wouldn’t call this a comedy, though, in the same vain of Fargo or other Coen Brothers movies. That’s what’s strange about dark comedy. Some films like the fantastic Slow West is less funny than Hell or High Water yet I would still consider that a comedy in its construction.
This film is more mature than The Town which for all its technical excellence felt like a lesser version of Mean Streets (I’m name-dropping like crazy). The thesis of Hell or High Water is not quite the bleak absurdism of No Country for Old Men though it does come close at times. This film is a little more specific in its target, blaming the hardships of the Deep South on Big Banks.
However what elevates this film above some other films with this level of “fight the power” in them is that for all the philosophizing about the modern age being no different from the past (cycles of violence being another theme in No Country) the events of the movie are pointed out to be the fault of bad people’s actions, not just the bankers, but to a greater extent our heroic bank-robbers.
David Mackenzie has made a truly excellent modern western. Well-directed, superbly written and acted, if this film doesn’t go on my top 10 films of the year list, this has been a great film year.
Recommend Scenario: If you want No Country meets The Town. That’s a good cocktail.