Blood Money: 'Hell or High Water' is cinematic gold
Hell or High Water
4 out of 5 Stars
Director: David Mackenzie
Writer: Taylor Sheridan
Starring: Chris Pine, Jeff Bridges, Ben Foster, Gil Birmingham
Genre: Crime, Drama
Rated: R for some strong violence, language throughout and brief sexuality
Recommended to: Fans of modern westerns, smart dramas and fantastic performances paired with great direction.
Synopsis: A pair of brothers on a bank-robbery spree are tracked by a pair of Texas Rangers.
Review: “Hell or High Water” is a marvelous western set in modern times featuring an eye-opening performance that finds Chris Pine breaking out of his traditional blockbuster mold for something far more soulful. Pine stars as Toby Howard, a good man pressed against the wall when a bank threatens to foreclose on his recently-deceased mother’s farm. Tired of a system that is built upon the blood and sweat of the underclass Toby convinces his brother Tanner (Ben Foster), an unrepentant ex-con, to rob the very banks that their mother was indebted to.
Pursued by a pair of Texas Rangers, Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) and Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham), the brothers look to stay two steps ahead of the law just long enough to steal enough money to cover their debts and save the family’s farm.
What makes “Hell or High Water” a truly enjoyable and engaging drama is that Taylor Sheridan’s (“Sicario”) script combined with David Mackenzie’s (“Starred Up”) direction doesn’t pass judgement on the brothers. Sometimes what is right and what is legal don’t match up in the way that they should. The line between good and bad gets blurred, particularly when it comes to the pursuit of justice. You might not agree with the actions the brothers take, but the situation they are put in by a system that is designed to keep the poor impoverished certainly influences the way their crimes are perceived. Robin Hood was an outlaw after all.
And yet the film does not paint the brothers as heroes and the Texas Rangers as villains. Hamilton and Parker are simply men doing the job that is given them. Parker, an American Indian with Mexican blood ties, sees the situation exactly for what it is; another example of the powerful stealing from those unfortunate enough to be in their way.
“Hell or High Water” is wonderful film packed equal parts action and meditative musing on what it means to be a man in a world designed to strip them of their humanity and pride. The cast is exceptional, the script is smart, the cinematography beautiful and the direction as fine as anything you’ll see this year. “Hell or High Water” is easily one of the best films to come out this year, a gem at the end of blockbuster season to turn our attention into award season.