MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Directed by David Mackenzie. Starring Chris Pine, Ben Foster
Toby (Pine) and Tanner (Foster) are two brothers from West Texas who rob banks. They aren’t the most sophisticated or organized crooks, but they act fast, preferring to grab the cash out of available teller drawers rather than trying to unlock a safe. Although they are quick to draw their guns they have no intention of shooting or killing anyone. And they are specifically choosing to rob from the Texas Midland Bank system.
No one seems to paying them serious attention, but U.S. Marshall Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) thinks that he can catch them using planning and patience. Marcus is close to retirement but has the wisdom of age on his side, along with his trusty Native American sidekick Alberto (Gil Birmingham).
All of the traditional elements of a classic Western are included in Hell or High Water, except that the story takes place in contemporary America (although with the absence of high-tech smartphones and the Internet). But the film takes its time to tell its simple story, focusing not only on the friendship of the two brothers but the quiet desperation of hard-living folk just a paycheck away from foreclosure. The clever script by Taylor Sheridan depicts blue collar, hard living people with compassion and humor, with social commentary worked into the mix.
Credit the influence of Quentin Tarentino for the quirky characters, witty banter, and playful racism, but I found Hell or High Water much more sympathetic in tone, giving us people to care about. The film doesn’t endorse or excuse criminal behavior but it does provides a back story as well as a family history that help explain how things arrived at the place they did.
There are also a couple of brief scenes with minor characters that will stick around in my memory for some time, including a few awkward minutes placing an order with a waitress at a steak house.
Hell or High Water doesn’t pretend to be anything more than an entertaining time at the movies, but it provides refreshment from the summer onslaught of superhero blockbusters and dystopian futures. There’s a lot of swearing as well as craftsmanship on screen. Hence, the title: you get a lot of hell (and then some) in this high water mark of a movie.
Three halos: A well-acted and cleverly written modern day western.
Three pitchforks: Violent gunplay; a quick scene of sexual activity in the background; much casual but strong swearing; playful racist banter; and bank robbing.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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