Browse all reviews by letter     A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0 - 9

USA 2016
Directed by
David Mackenzie
102 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Hell Or High Water

Synopsis: Two brothers, one a divorced father (Chris Pine), the other an ex-con (Ben Foster) commit a string of bank robberies in order to raise the money needed to protect their family farm from foreclosure. Meanwhile, an aging sheriff (Jeff Bridges) is on their trail.

West Texas has been dying on the big screen at least since Peter Bogdanovich’s 1971 masterpiece, The Last Picture Show, a film which like Hell Or High Water also starred Jeff Bridges.  Somewhat ironically, Bridges, then a handsome young buck with big ideas about his future is now playing a grizzled paunchy old man with time hanging heavy on his shoulders but West Texas still hasn't died.

And there’s the catch with David Mackenzie’s Coenesque film. It taps into the” Grapes of Wrath”-like mystique of the dying West and desperately poor ranchers who would give up their lives before surrendering their barren piece of dirt to the banks but it does so as an exercise in genre style rather than out of any real empathy for the little people swept aside by the tides of change.  In fact it is pretty much ready to call their fate just deserts as it was their great-grandparents who stole the land from the Native Americans150 years earlier. The Indians have long gone, the cowboys are finished and now money rules. As Tommy Lee Jones put it, it’s no country for old men.

Mackenzie takes a measured approach to his story with long takes of the brothers jawing on the porch over beers as the sun goes down or Bridges’ Texas Ranger and his side-kick (Gil Birmingham) jawing on the porch over beers as the sun goes and extended overhead tracking shots of the treeless West Texas landscape, interspersing the laconicism with occasional bursts of violence, the brothers’ purpose gradually emerging as the film runs its course.

It’s a lovingly crafted work with a solid script by Taylor Sheridan (who had a hit with last year’s Sicario) that knows its antecedents well and benefits from solid performances from all the cast, Chris Pine standing out in particular.  Although it doesn’t do anything new with very familiar material if you like these kind of low-fi stories from the Southern States of America it’s worth seeing. 




Want more about this film?

search youtube  search wikipedia  

Want something different?

random vintage best worst