They are all packing in Texas

Hell or High Water

hell_or_high_water

Director: David Mackenzie

Cast: Ben Foster, Chris Pine, Jeff Bridges, Dale Dickey, Gil Birmingham, Katy Mixon

British director David Mackenzie’s riveting and quick-witted Texan thriller Hell or High Water features some brilliant performances by Ben Foster (The Program, 3:10 to Yuma) and Oscar winner Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart).

Foster along with Chris Pine (Star Trek, Into the Woods) play brothers Tanner and Toby Howard who set out by terrorizing West Texas in a series of well-executed bank robberies in small towns only hitting the branches of the Texas Midlands Bank stealing untraceable notes. This is the same bank that is about to foreclose on their late mother’s farm, whilst there are possibly oil drilling rights on the land.

Mackenzie paints a decaying portrait of rural Texas, a backwater where everyone is struggling to make ends meet, an environment ripe with desperation and reckless activity. This would be quite an ordinary film except for the extraordinary performances by all three leads especially Bridges as Marcus Hamilton, a Texan law enforcement officer who is dreading the banality of retirement. Instead Hamilton likes teasing his half-native American partner Alberto Parker played by Gil Birmingham during a stakeout.

Ben Foster is equally striking as the hot-headed and reckless ex-con Tanner Howard, clearly not the brains behind the heists. Tanner even robs a bank while his brother Toby is being chatted up by a curvaceous waitress wonderfully played by Katy Mixon, as he finishes his steak in a diner.

With a particularly insightful and witty script by Taylor Sheridan, Hell or High Water is an amusing and enjoyable contemporary Western, without resorting to levels of unexpected violence so frequent in such Coen brothers’ films as No Country for Old Man or True Grit.

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Instead director David Mackenzie delivers a smartly scripted film about two brothers trying to rectify their financial situation through unlawful means whilst a patient and watchful Hamilton waits for the two to make an irrevocable mistake. That happens in the final heist in a small town called Post, Texas where even the locals give chase to the Howard brothers through the expansive and desolate terrain. For everyone is packing a gun in Texas.

A touching moment before the fatal heist the night before between the Howard brothers, is a precursor to their luck running out. Like in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, as with most cops and robbers tales, eventually the tide does turn.

From Texas to Oklahoma and back again, Hell or High Water is a thoroughly enjoyable and well scripted film, featuring superb performances by Foster, Pine and Bridges and is definitely worth watching.

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