"With a haunting score to boot, Taylor Sheridan supplies a script with enough bite and giggles to ensure it’s not all dusty, doom and gloom"
Lucky for us, in amongst superheroes, romances and ridiculously silly Zac Efron comedies, we have a film that actually carries some weight. Starred Up director David Mackenzie brings us the rough and ready Hell or High Water. After Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner Howard’s (Ben Foster) mother passes away, the two essentially declare war on Texas Midlands Bank, who are trying to foreclose on their childhood family home, that happens to be on top of an oil goldmine. It’s either that or watch it get swallowed back into the devastatingly corrupt system.
Hell or High Water is in essence a non-stop car chase. Yet, not the car chase you are all thinking of. Forget flash cars and drag racing, think old fashioned, jumped up vehicles and drivers with enough grit to make Vin Diesel hang up his car keys for good. It's slick and boy is it serious. With the heist plot being no stranger to our screens, the story is at arm’s reach and ready for the taking. This is simple, but why overcomplicate things? What makes this film so accessible are the characters. Each and every one are realistic representations of humans protecting and fighting for what is rightfully theirs.
Considering our current state of affairs when it comes to debt, mortgages and of course, the banks, even though these guys are committing crimes, they are the heroes, proving that the system is incredibly flawed. And for that, one can’t help but cheer for the anti-heroes here. We quickly discover what makes these boys ticks and they look like they aren’t hitting the stop button until they have what they want. At times, this is deeply unsettling. Their actions are just so darn human – emotions driving them to the next bank in order to complete their mission run high. Predictably the Rangers are hot on their heels. The seasoned and outright racist Ranger, Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) figures out their next move, albeit Toby and Tanner aren’t the usual meth heads, stealing cash for their next fix.
From the get go, Pine and Foster form a brotherly bond like no other. Two very different men, albeit with the same grudge. Foster brings just enough crazy to his adrenaline loving, the rush of the robbery, Tanner whereas Pine’s Toby has a much clearer and calculated stunt to perform. This is so far from the chiseled Kirk, it’s hard to believe it’s even the same man. Undeniably, both actors shine through their greasy, unshaven grimy personas and prove to us just how talented they are. Thankfully, the gun sequences aren’t overly theatrical and as the final show down commences a strong dig at Yank gun laws emerges. The plain fact that this is American, not only America, but Texas where guns are like handbags – pretty much everybody has one.
Ultimately, what we have here is a refreshing approach to an old genre. There’s a certain eeriness that comes with the vast expanse of the stark desert, alongside Caves and Ellis’s atmospheric notes succeed in creating a gritty, new-age crime infested western of sorts; that in the main impresses on every beat. After all, this is from the man who gave us the terrifically tension fueled Sicario, coupled with the ever growing skills of Starred Up’s Mackenzie. Before the first scene is even over, any doubt you had that this robber verse ranger flick may not be up to spec is quickly eliminated.
Above all else this is a heartwarming, yet insanely dangerous task the boys have set themselves, but their determination is what makes this 90 mile-an-hour film so utterly believable. The added bonus of Jeff Bridge's impeccably timed sarcasm simply puts the cherry on the cake.