Hell or High Water, at its core is a revitalised take on the Western genre set against the backdrop of a dusty, seemingly empty Texas. The latest in a group of thrillers inspired by the financial destitute suffered within the past decade (see also A Place Beyond The Pines ), it follows two brothers on a quest to save their family ranch from foreclosure by “Texas Midlands bank”. The brothers are played to perfection by Chris Pine as Toby, a divorced dad, desperate to leave something behind for his sons and thus hatches a clever plan to rob the same bank about to foreclose on him with his brother. The brother a trigger-happy, ex-convict, and altogether less stable individual is played by the surprisingly excellent Ben Foster (World of Warcraft , X-Men:The Last Stand). The film is the actor’s second team-up following last year’s relatively unknown but solid, The Finest Hours. Their robberies obviously do not go unnoticed, especially by Jeff Bridge’s crafty lawman, who refuses to go into retirement without a fight. With the help of his partner, a stoic Gil Birmingham (Twilight) the County Sheriff and Deputy follow the robberies in the hope of catching the brothers in the act.
While this would be an excellent set-up for a high octane action thriller (and don’t get me wrong, it certainly is) , the action is never overbearing on the plot. The screenwriters favour a more dialogue-laden , character explorative approach and this is as entertaining if not more so than the action set-pieces. In favouring a more patient approach, the violence and action is made nearly all the more visceral. The robberies continually and gradually build up speed as they go along, becoming more insane in the process , culminating in an incredibly clever commentary on American gun-politics, something at the forefront of the media in the past few years.
Funny, smart and at times genuinely heart-warming Hell or High Water is the perfect modern take on the ‘Western’ for the Netflix generation. With a solid Southern-Gothic soundtrack, stylish action, incredible dialogue and highly watchable leads, it easy to see and understand why this is being hailed as one of the best films of the year.
DIRECTOR: David Mackenzie
CAST: Chris Pine, Jeff Bridges, Ben Foster, Gil Birmingham
CT. Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Jack Roulston | Film & TV Writer