HELL OR HIGH WATER

★★★

GOOD PEOPLE DOING BAD THINGS

THEATRICAL REVIEW
By Kate Smith
23rd October 2016

Bank capers aren’t new to Hollywood; neither are brothers-in-arms and vendettas. ‘Hell or High Water’ combines all three, so what makes it special?

Brothers Tanner and Toby Howard start robbing banks. But not just any banks. No, the Tanners are only robbing branches of the Texas Midlands Bank - and they have a plan. Their mother has died, with her ranch facing foreclosure and the vultures circling. Toby enlists his ex-con brother Tanner to help him save the ranch, so that Toby’s sons might have a financial future.

Doesn’t sound like much, does it? Throw in a few more plot points and a couple of twists, and here’s a story to invest in. The writing is very good, but what makes this film worthy are the cast delivering those lines. Chris Pine, (‘Star Trek Beyond’) injects desperation and nobility into Toby, while Tanner is delivered with so many shades of questionable morals by Ben Foster, (’Inferno’) that you’re never quite sure whether you should like him.

'HELL OR HIGH WATER' TRAILER

These two and the supporting cast are excellent, but what makes this film special is Jeff Bridges... being Jeff Bridges. Having made a name for himself as the go-to for “Gruff Old Dude with Distinctive Voice”, Bridges does not disappoint. As Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton, looking to close one last case before being put out to pasture, drags around his “half-breed” partner, peppering the man with racist insults and rough affection from dawn ‘til dusk. The other superb performance is from Gil Birmingham (‘House of Cards’) as that long-suffering partner, and when it all goes down in the end, it’s his role that plays a pivotal part. All four main players deliver career-making performances. While the going is heavy enough to shed a tear, you will also laugh (mostly in shock at some of Bridges’ lines).

All four main players deliver career-making performances.

Production value is top notch, as is the soundtrack. Director David Mackenzie (whose résumé holds nothing at all recognizable – why?) and his team chose cinematography and music that speaks to the soul of anyone who’s ever lived on the land. Watching this film, I wondered if perhaps we should convince Mackenzie to come out here and make a film about the Outback, because this bloke gets it.

Entirely relevant to the current financial climate in America, and eminently relatable here too, this is a film that reaches out and takes hold of you. Peeling back the layers of morality about what it means to do right by your family and what it means to seek justice, ‘Hell or High Water’ is a valuable tale of loyalty and desperation in everyday people.

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