Hell or High Water
Out Now On-Demand
Justice isn't a crime.
Chris Pine (Star Trek), Ben Foster (The Program) and Oscar-winner Jeff Bridges lead this contemporary Texan bank-robbing thriller. From the director of Starred Up and the writer of Sicario.
A story about the collision of the Old and New West, two brothers — Toby (Pine), a straight-living, divorced father trying to make a better life for his son; and Tanner (Foster), a short-tempered ex-con with a loose trigger finger — come together to rob branch after branch of the bank that is foreclosing on their family land. The hold-ups are part of a last-ditch scheme to take back a future that powerful forces beyond their control have stolen from under their feet.
Vengeance seems to be theirs until they find themselves in the crosshairs of a relentless Texas Ranger (Bridges) looking for one last triumph on the eve of his retirement. A showdown looms at the crossroads where the last honest law man and a pair of brothers with nothing to live for, except family, collide.
Rating: MA15+ Strong violence
Coming off like a Southern-fried Coen Brothers noir minus the suffocating nihilism, David Mackenzie’s ninth feature functions impressively on multiple levels. It’s a rustic, poignant tale of brotherhood, sacrifice and redemption. It’s a sobering elegy for the economically dispossessed - think 99 Homes in boot spurs and a cowboy hat. It’s also the sort of tight, terse, old-school crime drama one can imagine Don Siegel cranking out in the '70s. Whichever way you slice it, it’s a darn good flick.
Working from a punchy, sharply character-driven script by Sicario’s Taylor Sheridan, Mackenzie, a Scotsman, exhibits a discerning eye for the film’s crumbling small towns: the billboards promising “debt relief”, the jaded, downtrodden farmers, the air of desolation and abandonment that permeates the ghostly, tumbleweed-ridden streets. He also coaxes finely tuned performances out of Chris Pine and Ben Foster, who’re better here together as bank-robbing siblings than they’ve ever been alone in other films. The latter finds an outlet for his hair-trigger intensity that’s, for once, infused with a smidgen of warmth, while the former wears the archetype of the laconic, quietly desperate cowboy with ease.
It’d be hard to go without a mention of Jeff Bridges, whose pudgy, gently ribbing Texas ranger is smartly tailored around his seasoned stature and provides a source for much of the film’s hearty humour. Hell or High Water is a mightily lean work, but rich in brittle intimacy, karmic irony and moral ambiguity. It’s one of the year’s most pleasant surprises.
Stuff.co.nz (James Croot)
NZ Herald (Russell Baillie)
NewsHub.co.nz (Kate Rodger)
A visually engaging and thematically rich modern western with an enigmatic ending
Don’t be fooled by the cowboy hats as Hell or High Water (2016) is much more than just another western bank-robber adventure. It belongs with films like Money Monster (2016) and 99 Homes (2015) that are loaded with post-GFC themes, all scorching the underbelly of American capitalism. As a hybrid genre, it cuts across several cinematic boundaries to produce an action-packed semi-comedic yet darkly probing look at a society still reeling in the wake of the 2008 world financial meltdown.
The story hinges on the pursuits of two brothers who rob several banks in the wild west of Texas. Toby (Chris Pine) is the likeable one who wants to save his farm from mortgage foreclosure by a bank that still feeds off the sub-prime loan fiasco. Recently out of prison and far from likeable, his brother Tanner (Ben Foster) is erratic after years of pent-up violence. As opposites they represent the yin and yang of capitalism, set against dystopian landscapes of rusting cars, abandoned houses and poverty, beyond which are desert-scapes still beautiful despite human presence. Their fox-smart nemesis is a Texas Ranger called Marcus (Jeff Bridges) who is about to retire and wants to snare one more before handing in his badge.
In many ways, the details of the robbing and running play second fiddle to the bigger picture that is painted in this film. Seeing the two modern-day Robin Hoods exacting revenge on the system that causes so much injustice and pain is an innately satisfying spectacle. Except for Tanner’s violent tendencies, their crimes are victimless once we accept the premise that banks are evil. Several other narrative strands weave the larger story about today’s wild west. Marcus has a part-Comanche deputy called Alberto (Gil Birmingham) whom he mercilessly teases on racial lines in a nasty throwback to white supremacy. It is hard to miss the bitter irony of former Indian land stolen by cowboys that is now stolen by banks, a twist that leads us inexorably to side with the bank-robbing brothers.
Outstanding cinematography and fine acting performances are the film’s great strengths. Portrait-like framing shifts seamlessly from wide panoptic views to close-ups of craggy age-lines and worried glances, all in a colour palette that glows like desert skies. The storyline has varied pacing that captures both the slow clock of desert living and the danger of life on the run. The principal actors are cast perfectly and bring authenticity and nuance to their roles. This is a visually engaging and thematically rich film with an unexpectedly enigmatic ending. It will undoubtedly find a place among the nominations for this year’s best.
Clever plot that doesnt go as expected with great pace and direction. Found it quite gripping. Chris Pine as always is great in this movie about bank robbers and the blurring of right and wrong.
Yes. West Texas is really like this.
Having lived over there in the Lone Star State I can tell you this is no fantasy. It really is the wild west, and this is what makes this film so great. The characters, right down to the diner waitress, are spot on. So the locations and characters really are the stars of this show and the little story about a man righting a wrong just moves everything along and ties it all together with a big yellow ribbon. Go for the soundtrack, go for the environment, go for the acting. You won't be disappointed.
From the director of Starred Up and the writer of Sicario. (You had me there!!) Hell or High Water centres on a series of bank robberies by two brothers.
The reason behind the robberies gets deeper and deeper as the film progresses, and that's what really works. It's a film that feels a lot like a western, with the cowboy get ups, small towns and let's not forget the Nick Cave soundtrack. On the other hand, this is so relevant to the now. The hardships of small town American and the financial crisis hitting so many lives.
This is about The System knocking people down, trying to get their grubby little claws over anything they can, no matter the lives they affect. But everyone has a breaking point, even good people.
All three actors are on top top form. Probably the best Chris Pine performance to date. Bridges and Foster are also superb!
Simple made great
The concept was simple, there's no excessive exposition and wow, did it take you for a ride. There's a great mix of action and conversation. It's not a popcorn thriller, but I was glued to the screen anyway. It's a fantastic movie, go see it!
Great movie, with interesting moral touch
Great cast and excellent script, interesting moral around how the banks have ripped of so many amaericans in the last decade , Highly recommend
Wish I could add an extra half star
Everything is so good in this, Cave and Ellis's score, the performances from everyone, the dialogue and the cinematography all deserve a mention.
A thrilling indy crime slinging western
I was pleasantly surprised with this movie, set in small town Texas two brothers go on a spree of bank robberies, chased by the Ranger (Bridges) and his Deputy. The story line is simple but was drawn into the quirky characters and humour and grappled with which side I supported - the law or the robbers (they have a emotional cause you just want to back). The acting is great in this film and would highly recommend!
This movie was very thought provoking, emotive, understated and a really good watch. Thoroughly enjoyed it!
A good story line supported by a solid cast. While elements of the story are well used, semi retired cop with a younger partner chasing down bad guys, this version blends that with family loyalty and Southern pride. Mixed in with the action are several very humourous scenes and a number of one liners from the older Texas Ranger played by Jeff Bridges. Overall a very good watch.
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