Title – Hell or High Water (2016)
Director – David Mackenzie (Starred Up)
Cast – Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Jeff Bridges, Gil Birmingham
Plot – Texan brothers Toby (Pine) and Tanner Howard (Foster) have turned to robbing banks in order to keep the family farm and support Toby’s young boys but their plan to break free of their poverty filled lives faces challenges when the soon to be retired Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton (Bridges) takes an interest in their crime spree.
“I’ve been poor my whole life, like a disease passing from generation to generation. But not my boys, not anymore”
Review by Eddie on 21/11/2016
For Jordan’s take on the film click HERE
Delivering a searing follow-up to his gut punch of a prison movie Starred Up, Scottish based director David Mackenzie has very quickly become a director of note with his Texas based heist drama (with thriller elements) Hell or High Water delivering one of the year’s most memorable cinematic outings filled with ominous vibes, intense performances and against all the odds more wit than a standalone comedy.
Using the Texan landscape at his disposal (that isn’t actually Texas at all) as another character in the film (the dusty plains, debt helpline signs or near abandoned cities feel alive and vibrant), Mackenzie finds eye catching scenery and freedom in his direction away from his oft used British infused experiences and alongside Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’s moodily pitched score and Giles Nuttgens camera work, Hell or High Water brings the relatively straightforward story of desperate brothers Tanner and Toby Howard to life in vivid fashion, which marks this film down as something more than it easily could’ve been.
Held together by the chemistry between Chris Pine’s good intentioned Toby and Ben Foster as his more criminally minded and loose cannon brother Tanner, Hell or High Water benefits greatly from the work of its two leads while the inclusion of Jeff Bridges bringing out his Rooster Cogburn character is but the cherry on top of an already enthralling picture.
Bridges could play this role in his sleep and while his mumble riddle Texas drawl may irritate some, his an absolutely joy here as aging ranger Marcus Hamilton and his partnering with Gil Birmingham’s native Indian ranger Alberto Parker offers up outstanding comradery and evidenced by the cinema patrons I saw this film with, a huge amount of heart and laughs that makes the film’s final stretches that much more engaging as our characters inevitable clashes with each other offer fine payoffs to what has come before.
Whilst not a heist film (the film merely has a few heists sprinkled throughout) as some may’ve wanted, Hell or High Water is both an effective drama of family bonds and a realistic thriller that will shock with its sporadic yet wince inducing violence and engage with its heartfelt and believable characters.
Finely acted, impressively directed and smartly scripted by Sicario screenwriter Taylor Sheridan, Hell of High Water is one of the year’s best and another great showcase for the increasing talents of David Mackenzie.
4 ½ gun wielding civilian vigilantes out of 5