Hell or High Water (2016)
Starring: Ben Foster, Chris Pine, Jeff Bridges, Gil Birmingham
Directed by: David Mackenzie
Written by: Taylor Sheridan
Rating: R Running Time: 1 hr. 42 min
More than most films, post the huge financial collapse and bailout, Hell or High Water endeavors to capture the mood of a country that feels cheated by the financial sector and its bought and paid for government. Whereas films like The Big Short effectively explore The Great Recession from the inside out. High Water shows us the effects off the beaten path, and sets its story in a part of the world that doesn’t take kindly to faceless bureaucrats and corrupt bankers.
Hell or High Water moves slowly, but sets up great characters and Taylor Sheridan’s screenplay injects just enough southern US sass to keep things entertaining. The back and forth between the Howard brothers (Ben Foster and Chris Pine) and rangers Marcua Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) an Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham), deliver some of the best moments in the film. And each character’s motivations are clear and logical enough that you’ll find yourself rooting for both sides of this cops and robbers chase across west Texas.
The film’s post financial crisis theme is given the lightest touch, and references to the fallout following the bank created recession are limited to graffiti grumbling about the bailouts, and freeway signs promising quick cash and debt relief. As I said, this film is more about mood, rather than a straight forward good versus an evil we can actually see and hear. The banks are the boogie men in this story, but their influence is more omnipresent. And our ‘heroes’ have to work around and then with the system in order to achieve their goals. I personally would have enjoyed a more direct and simpler approach leading to a final confrontation with a human representation of the evils in this story. But I still appreciated the tone and pace set up by director David Mackenzie, and would still recommend you see this film.
Expect a slow but effective ride. Be patient, because the payoff is worth it. Ben Foster, Chris Pine, Jeff Bridges, and Gil Birmingham deliver superb performances. Hell or High Water is rated R for language and moments of violence.
Marcua Hamilton and Alberto Parker set themselves up in a diner across the street from a bank they suspect will be the Howard brothers’ next target. In the diner they encounter the T-Bone Waitress (Margaret Bowman), and her no fuss exchange with the two rangers is hilarious.