Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Hell or High Water

Year of Release:  2016
Director:  David Mackenzie
Screenplay:  Taylor Sheridan
Starring:   Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Gil Birmingham
Running Time:  102 minutes
Genre:  thriller, crime

This neo-Western crime thriller tells the story of the Howard brothers, divorced father Toby (Pine) and violent, ex-con Tanner (Foster) who embark on a string of bank robberies throughout Texas, always targeting branches of the same bank, in order to stop the foreclosure of their family's farm, and also to take revenge on the bank.  they are pursued by a pair of laconic Texas Rangers:  Marcus Hamilton (Bridges) and Alberto Parker (Birmingham).

This is similar in style to Coen Brothers films such as Blood Simple (1984) and No Country for Old Men  (2008), but it stands up on it's own, and is probably the best thriller of the year.  The film is suspenseful, exciting and often very funny.  The audience is on the side of the troubled Howard brothers, and Toby Howard's desire to provide for his children but we're also in no doubt about the wrongness of their actions.  While Toby is calm, collected, reasonable and abhors "unnecessary" violence, Tanner is a violent maniac with a hair-trigger temper and at the very least terrorizes any number of innocent cashiers.  Jeff Bridges is at his best as the wisecracking, ageing and world-weary Texas Ranger, and his relationship with his Native American / Mexican partner Alberto is genuinely touching.  There is a real sense of a long-standing friendship there.  They insult each other  and crack wise on each other constantly, but there Bridges and Birmingham play it with real heart.  Chris Pine also deserves praise for his portrayal of the essentially decent  Toby Howard.  The film takes place among washed out, sunbleached Texas landscapes, full of dying small towns, and houses and farms either foreclosed or selling up, and endless billboards advertising quick cash loans, providing contemporary social relevance.   It's also very much a guy film, there are very few key roles for women, and Tanner Howard is portrayed as a violent misogynist.  The film's haunting score is provided by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis.

Ben Foster and Chris Pine in Hell or High Water

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