The western film genre is something of a rarity these days. Sure, we get the occasional gritty cowboy adventure but when it comes to modern-day westerns, that concept is something that quite often eludes us. The new crime thriller Hell or High Water is a fresh take on the genre and with a very strong cast, top notch direction, and a razor-sharp script, this is one movie you’re going to want to check out.
Hell or High Water (originally titled Comancheria) is the thrilling tale of Texan brothers Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster), who in order to save their family farm from foreclosure, plan a series of bank robberies in an attempt to make some easy money. Along the way, a crusty Texas Ranger (Jeff Bridges) and his Native American partner (Gil Birmingham) pursue them and the results are a little intense, to say the least.
While Bridges gets top billing here in a role that seems tailor made for him, the real highlights are Pine and Foster, whose on-screen chemistry is absolutely brilliant. You can really believe that they’re brothers, both committing crimes for a common purpose but very different in terms of personality and ways about doing things. Pine’s Toby in the “noble” one with a broken family he’s trying to repair and Foster’s Tanner is a loose cannon, who causes trouble wherever he goes. Quite simply, these two actors are great and their many exchanges really propel the film to awesome heights.
Scottish “auteur” director David Mackenzie (Starred Up, Perfect Sense) paints yet another beautiful picture with Hell or High Water. Filmed in New Mexico, the roads are dusty and the mountains are full of not only snakes, but many bullet casings. This film is a modern western in every sense of the term. The action is balanced excellently with the humorous bickering between the two leads, as well as the awesome back and forth between Bridges and Birmingham. Bridges is right at home here and it shows. While it seems in recent years after winning the Oscar for Crazy Heart, he has been typecast as a sarcastic cowboy and Hell or High Water is no exception and that’s fine because he is in fine form here.
There are very few films nowadays that even come close to the exquisite quality of Hell or High Water. All of the essential ingredients of a powerful thriller are in place here. Taylor Sheridan’s (Sicario, Veronica Mars) is a master of natural-sounding dialogue and his terrific work here only serves to elevate the actors’ performances. Not a huge blockbuster by any stretch of the imagination, Hell or High Water is a subtle film in parts, peppered with some cool action sequences and some of the best acting seen so far this year. The brilliance here lies in the simplicity and the characters are drawn so well, that almost anyone can relate to their struggles, motivations, and pain and while this isn’t a perfect film, it does come pretty darn close.
Hell or High Water will be released theatrically on August 12, 2016