The Hippo


Jul 4, 2020








Hell or High Water

Hell or High Water (R)
Film Reviews by Amy Diaz

By Amy Diaz

 Two brothers decide to save their family ranch by paying back the bank loan with money from bank robberies in Hell or High Water, a cool little cops-and-robbers thriller to end your summer with.

Tanner Howard (Ben Foster) is a regular customer of the Texas justice system, but his brother Toby Howard (Chris Pine) has a clean record. A crime-free life hasn’t added up to all that much for Toby; he’s unemployed and behind on his child care payments, and the bank is about to take the family ranch where his mother lived until her recent death. Because oil has been found on the land, all Toby needs to do is pay off the bank loan and the land will be able to provide a good life for his two sons. To get the money, Toby and Tanner have a carefully planned schedule of bank robberies. They intend to steal small-ish amounts of money from small-ish banks in the northwestern Texas towns near (but not too near) their ranch. They’ll bury the getaway cars, launder the money through a casino and pay off the loan, putting the land (and all the oil money to be made from it) in trust for Toby’s boys. 
The x-factor in this plan is, to some degree, Tanner. Though he’s happy to help secure a future for Toby’s boys, he’s just sort of happy to be engaged in the robberies in general, which makes him a loose cannon.
Also adding to the uncertainty is exactly what the men will find when they get to each bank. At one location, the bank isn’t quite open yet. At another, the bank has been shut down. And, this being West Texas, the bank customers are likely to be at least as well-armed as the robbers.
And then there is Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges). Nearing retirement, Hamilton pushes his partner, Ranger Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham), to join him on the hunt for the bank robbers. He is able to tease out generally what the robbers are doing and, perhaps to keep his mind off the coming boredom of life after law enforcement, he decides to go after the robbers with even more gusto than the few thousand here, few thousand there that they’re stealing would seem to warrant.
This is not new business we’re seeing from Bridges. His retiring ranger isn’t so different from True Grit’s Rooster Cogburn or even R.I.P.D.’s Roy. But just because it’s familiar doesn’t mean it isn’t good and a pleasure to watch. Hamilton mercilessly rags on the part Native American, part Mexican Parker, but Parker, and we, can sense the desperation behind the joviality. A widower, Hamilton truly won’t know what to do with his days when he has no white hat, partner and crime-fighting to fill them.
Over on the robbers’ side, Foster is also returning to well-trod ground for him, but his performance still feels fresh and vibrant. Tanner isn’t just a thrill-criminal; he’s a man who is full of rage, some of it justifiable, at the world and now long past the point when he could have found a positive place to put his energies. Pine’s Toby is also a well-crafted mix of emotions. He goes full Olyphant by the end of the movie, making his “doing a bad thing for a good reason” character similar visually and tonally to the ones played by Timothy Olyphant. The movie and the performances allow us to sympathize with the brothers without necessarily being on their team. 
Hell or High Water isn’t particularly fancy in what it’s doing — with its story,   its excellent cinematography or its across the board solid performances — but the movie does all of these things exceptionally well and crafts a grown-up action movie that’s a delight to watch. A
Rated R for some strong violence, language throughout and brief sexuality. Directed by David Mackenzie with a screenplay by Taylor Sheridan, Hell or High Water is an hour and 42 minutes long and distributed by CBS Films and Lionsgate.

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