Noble HellRaisers – A “Hell or High Water” Review

Disappointment and joy overcame me when I became aware of Hell or High Water.

I was disappointed that I had no knowledge that this film was an Official Selection at the Cannes Film Festival back in May, for the Un Certain Regard category. But that feeling was quickly replaced with joy simply for the following reason: isn't it a pleasure to stumble upon a great film without having seen its trailer, an article about it, a synopsis for it?



I was planning on seeing it with a friend, and he sold me on viewing with this text after being asked what’s the movie was about:

“I dunno, but its got great reviews

Stars Ben Foster, Chris Pine and The Dude"

Academy Award Winner Jeff Bridges (The Dude) stars as seasoned detective, Marcus Hamilton, on the cusp of retirement. He and his partner Alberto Parker (played by Gil Birmingham) go on the hunt across Texas to track down two robbers who've hit a couple of banks and attempt to stop them before they hit some more. The robbers are The Howard Brothers, played by Chris Pine and Ben Foster.

Pine plays the criminally noble Toby who took care of his mother until her dying days, and Foster plays Tanner, the loose cannon ex-con making up for lost time. On the surface, you see typical tropes arise for a crime drama with a Western touch: banks and robbers, detective on the verge of retirement, and brothers in arms. This time around, award-nominated screenwriter Taylor Sheridan (Sicario) injects unforced humor that feels right even at odd moment, and gives each character depth without telling the audience too much about them.

When I saw David Mackenzie's name, the film’s director, my mind drew a blank. Having never heard of him — even though he’s done his fair share of little-known movies such as Perfect Sense and Starred Up — I was already taken by his vision at the beginning of the movie as the camera would just parade around a parking lot, elegantly showing a bank employee exiting her car and entering the bank as the Howards stalk the establishment in their vehicle as they ride around the lot and then follow the employee in.

Jake Roberts, the film’s editor, keeps a deft pace, as Mackenzie and cinematographer, Giles Nuttgens, provide gorgeous landscape shots and fill the screen with a warm Texan heat fitting to the story's setting. Mackenzie is definitely a director to keep an eye on as this film is getting rave reviews (99% Rotten Tomatoes! 88% Metacritic!) and deservedly so.

Bridges revisits his role as Rooster Cogburn from True Grit, delighting us with his Southern drawl, and delivering slightly racist quips to Alberto. (You don’t end up hating him for it, promise.)

hell or high water review

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Pine does fine work as a grizzled divorcee who just lost his mother and concocts a scheme to keep her land. Foster (see Alpha Dog for his unhinged amazingness) is brilliant as always, as he believably plays the gun-toting and devoted brother along for the ride. At one point, as he’s rifling away at people in his way, he empties a banana clip by replacing it with A CLIP THAT WAS ATTACHED TO THE ONE THAT WAS JUST EMPTIED. It’s one of the more badass moments I’ve seen in recently and that alone should have people going to see the movie.

Detective Hamilton notices how different these robbers are since they don’t take hostages, they don’t harm anyone, they only take loose bills (5s, 10s, and 20s) from the register only, and they hit different branches of the same bank. Toby knows exactly what to do and how to do it, even getting lauded by a bank worker for his wrongs, and describing how he’s going about it by saying nothing’s more Texan than that.

Speaking of Texas, this film opened my eyes to the U.S.'s open carry laws because citizens are able to not only retaliate, but also stop criminals as they’re performing a crime or as they’re fleeing. Hell or High Water also shows you a “proper” way of robbing banks in a disciplined and moderate manner, as well as how to catch bank robbers. As tremendous as this film is, not only is it one of the year’s best pictures, but it also is a purview into how good ole’ Texan justice should be carried out.

written by The W


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