This one kind of came out of left field for me. For a lot of films, I usually know about them ahead of time and can get a grasp of what I’ll be in for. This one, didn’t hear a peep about it until just this week.
So my initial impressions are: I think it’s a cheat to make a “neo-western” instead of an actual western (what, are audiences too modern for a classic genre?), but I’m always down for Jeff Bridges and FINEST HOURS (2016) co-stars Chris Pine and Ben Foster, so I doubted that I’d be disappointed by the star power alone. The story didn’t seem very unique; couple of guys try to save their mom’s farm by robbing that banks that will foreclose it, one son’s a good man, the other an ex-con, so I am sort of predicting it right now.
Sitting in the director’s seat is David Mackenzie, whom it looks like he almost exclusively does indie films. I don’t recognize any of his work and that’s kind of rare, but all of this work seems to be popular by those who’ve seen them, so this might be in good hands. Penning the script is Taylor Sheridan. If that name sounds familiar to some of you, it’s not just because he wrote last year’s critically beloved SICARIO, but he’s also a fairly seasoned TV actor, having been on such popular shows like SONS OF ANARCHY and VERONICA MARS. Not gonna lie, I think this movie is going to be good with talent like this behind the scenes. Maybe the performances will carry it through the possible predictability.
Well, it’s time to get to it. This is my honest opinion of HELL OR HIGH WATER.
The story follows two southern brothers, the straight and honest good guy Toby (Chris Pine), and the ex-convict Tanner Howard (Ben Foster). The banks are trying to foreclose their family farm and the only way they feel they can keep it open is by buying it… with the bank’s money. Alone, they rob them and go on a spree. This catches the attention of a couple of Texas Rangers, the kindly Alberto Parker (Gil Birminghan) and the near-retired displaced-attitude veteran Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges). As the brothers’ robberies become more daring, the Rangers get ever closer to catching them.
… You’re still a cheat, movie. But yeah, this was a damn fine film.
As per usual Pine and Foster are absolutely fantastic, both individually and together. Toby is definitely the more grounded of the two men that hates that he has to rob these banks, but it’s also to settle a score with the banks that are taking away their family’s land. He’s a good man regardless and it’s easy to sympathize with him. Tanner on the other hand is the fucking nut-ball and gets a serious thrill from doing what they’re doing, but he’s that awesome kind of crazy. He’s not afraid to punch someone in the face, or even to shoot someone, but he’s still got his empathetic side. You do see a man who wanted to be around to help out while their mother was sick. You do see a loving brother. You do see a man who does the wrong things for the right reasons. But then again, you do see a man who does the wrong things for selfish and asshole reasons. He’s not the worst of the worst, but he’s definitely not his brother. I have no idea why this particular bit stands out for me, but one of my favorite moments in the movie is when the two are at a gas station and they totally finish kicking a dip-shit punk’s ass and drive away. Before, Tanner asked Toby to get him a Dr. Pepper while he was in the store, but when they drive away, Tanner’s all, “You trying to piss me off? I asked for a Dr. Pepper and you give me a Mr. Pibb?” I was laughing just as hard as the audience was.
Bridges delivers a performance not unlike Foster’s. He’s the hilarious asshole, but probably a bit more emphasis on the “asshole.” Since his partner, Alberto is half Native American and half Hispanic, nearly every joke that comes out Marcus’ mouth is supposed to be an offensive remark about his heritage. He’s not mean-spirited about it, necessarily, he’s just “teasing,” but it’s pretty frequent. This may not be Bridges best or most memorable work, but he’s still delivers a delightful performance and makes a very fun character.
Not a lot of people may know this, but I actually wasn’t that big a fan of SICARIO. It was by no means a bad movie, but I felt like how they kept Emily Blunt’s character in the story was incredibly weak, and if you know me very well, characters are story and therefore are the most important element to a movie. I think Sheridan learned a lesson because not only is his script pretty damn tight, he wrote the dialog in a way that even though the movie shows very little, the characters speak volumes, and I’m sure that MacKenzie had no small hand in that. There’s nuance to these characters, there’s moral ambiguity, it’s all a done beautifully.
I might nitpick that there are a couple scenes in this movie that don’t add anything to the overall movie and are just there to be there and the ending gets a tad overblown… but even those semi unnecessary scenes are pretty enjoyable themselves and, gee wiz, a western that has a big stand-off climax, THAT’S NEVER BEEN DONE BEFORE IN THE HISTORY OF WESTERNS!!! *sarcasm* So yeah, if you’re a fan of westerns, neo or classic, I’d say this is pretty enjoyable. It’s got some fun, it’s got some drama, some really solid performances, it’s a solid flick. Forewarning though, it’s a pretty limited release, so you might have to look for it and go out of your way to find it, but I do think it’s worth the worth the price and gas, so I high recommend it.
My honest rating for HELL OR HIGH WATER: 5/5
That’s that for this week folks. But hey, the movie industry shits out a new batch every week, so keep an eye out for my reviews… of movie industry shits… yeah, I need to work on my analogies.
- KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS
- trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4-6qJzeb3A
- BEN-HUR (2016)
- trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3BmeR9GYdDU
- MORRIS FROM AMERICA
- trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C8HY-6F4Y_I
- WAR DOGS
- trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rwh9c_E3dJk