AN ADULT, MODERN DAY WESTERN
Film Review by Fiore
Westerns are one genre of film simply not made often enough. I’m not sure what alienated Hollywood producers from Westerns. Perhaps it was political correctness, after all it would be wrong to show the savagery of Indians in today’s culture; or it could be the opposite side of the coin, that people would not pay the price of a ticket to see settlers and cowboys, part of our history, denigrated as ruthless scoundrels. Or perhaps it’s because the Hollywood Looney Liberal Left (H3L) simply can’t stand to show a time when American patriotism was at its peak. Something tells me there is a middle ground were Westerns could survive and thrive. No one, however has he willingness, or the creativity, to go there.
This is why I had so much fun with HELL OR HIGH WATER. It is, essentially, a modern day Western. It features the stogy, die-hard lawman in the vein of Wyatt Earp, the citizen popular criminals reminiscent of Jesse James, and of course the ultimate antagonists, the large banks and their unscrupulous barons. Combine these elements with incredibly fine performances by Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine and Ben Foster and HELL OR HIGH WATER proves to be an adult film worth watching.
Pine and Foster are the Howard brothers. Upon the death of their mother, the leeches from the bank move in to foreclose on her farm, offering a mere pittance of its value. Toby is a ranch hand who has no marketable skills off the farm, while Tanner is fresh from prison, where he served a ten-year sentence for murder.
Pine elevates his thespian skills to an adult level, not having to worry about aggressive phaser fire or warp drive engines. Foster is in top form and could be considered for supporting actor considerations. Relegated mostly to secondary roles, Foster never fails to deliver stunning performances, whether it is an adult drama, like HELL OR HIGH WATER, or a cheesy sci-fi yarn with space zombies. The man has talent.
Not happy about the muscling of the Midland Texas Bank, the boys opt to begin a series of bank robberies to halt the farm’s foreclosure. This catches the eye of Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton, played by Bridges, who is also a personal friend of Cordell Walker, another famous Texas Ranger. With his partner Alberto Parker, played by Gil Birmingham, he seeks to stop the boys and return law and order to Texas, or at least this small part of it. Though he has a small part, Birmingham makes the best of it, making his character most endearing.
KEY SCENES TO LOOK FOR:
1. THE DINER
2. THE POV SHOT AROUND THE S-CURVE
3. THE FINAL CONVERSATION
At the heart of HELL OR HIGH WATER is a simple tale everyone can relate to: a small, insignificant man seeking justice in a system rigged for the wealthy and powerful. The underdog (no Wally Cox voice necessary) battling and beating the system. The cast is in top form. Cinematographer Giles Nuttgens offers yeoman, but effective shots and screenwriter Taylor Sheridan delivers a script for adults (hooray), not filled with the mindlessness that so enthralls the Millennials.
THE GRADE FOR HELL OR HIGH WATER =A