A “Fargo” type of movie set not under snowfall but in the dearth towns of West Texas. Hell or High Water has always been my kind of movie, the crime drama set in the backdrop of American backwaters where it could be modern day yet somehow collectively everybody around is behind the curve. Chris Pine and Ben Foster are brothers on a bank robbing spree, with one brother more guilt-ridden while the other is reckless. Instead of your usual plot where the objective points to a climactic big heist, this case has them cleaning the “cash drawers for a few thousand at a time.” Low-level crime can be more interesting than movies that go after preposterous high stakes. There is a certain desperation hinted upon that these brothers, for at first unsaid reasons, need money fast.
This is a terrifically shot movie from start to finish, with its rough drawn highways, ramshackle towns and a stop or two inside a seedy Indian casino. This David Mackenzie (“Young Adam”) film, which is in the vein of the Coen Brothers’ classics “Blood Simple” (1985) and “No Country for Old Men” (2007) that were also set in Texas, is also host to a bunch of compelling side characters. There is a lot of great local dialogue that adds priceless flavor.
Much props to Jeff Bridges, in what has to be another high water mark for the veteran actor who here plays the Texan Ranger who has seen it all. Bridges has always seemed like an actor who has drawn upon his life experiences more than cribbing from other movies. His Ranger Marcus is a great bellicose character who can get any given character to talk more or shut-up, because he so dominates the flow of conversation.
Bridges is brilliant, but I can’t deny the fact that Pine and Foster exceeded my expectations which is crucial. What makes “Hell or High Water” such a brisk movie is that we keep learning things about them along the way, in terms of shades of character uncovered and the peerless look at their secret demons. The screenwriter here is Taylor Sheridan, whose previous credit was “Sicario,” and it’s obvious that he’s a top drawer talent.
This is one of the year’s best films.
102 Minutes. Rated R.
SUSPENSE-DRAMA / ADULT ACTION / LATE NIGHT THRILLER
Film Cousins: “Blood Simple” (1985); “Fargo” (1996); “Lone Star” (1996); “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada” (2005).