Movie Review: Hell Or High Water

Jean-Paul’s Rating: 4/5 stars

Bottom Line: Two buddy movies in one.  Great dialogue.  Banks suck.

“Hell or High Water” is a buddy movie.  In fact, it’s two buddy movies.  You have the two brothers who are bank robbers and you have the two Texas Rangers hot on the robbers’ trail.  All of this is set in the backdrop of rural Texas where foreclosures are rampant and banks prey upon the elderly in schemes to get their land.  Really, this film could have been shot in any rural community in any state, but Texas has one thing going for it that make it the correct choice; it contains Texans.

The bank robber brothers are Tanner (Ben Foster) and Toby (Chris Pine) Howard.  Tanner is a career criminal and Toby is of the quietly desperate persuasion who turns to crime to pay for his recently dead mother’s land before the bank forecloses on it and the oil it hides, but also so he can provide a sense of safety and security for his two estranged children by giving them the deed to said oil.  Yes, they rob banks, but much of the film actually takes place in cars or in diners or on their mother’s land as the two brothers talk through life.

The Texas Rangers are Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) and Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham).  Hamilton is near retirement and Parker is his long suffering partner.  They pursue the Howards with a sort of quiet determination.  This is what real police work looks like.  They go from bank to bank looking for clues and patterns and then just sit in restaurants and hotel rooms waiting for the robbers’ next move, eventually trying to be a step ahead before that move occurs.

This movie is what I call a talkie.  Yes, banks get robbed, cars are chased, and violence ensues, but those are just tiny pieces in a story that is only marginally about crime and law and order.  Instead it’s about relationships and trust and loyalty.  Both the cops and the robbers in this film exhibit all of those characteristics and the line between them is only what life has dropped on each.  All of this plays out with some terrific dialogue.  A talkie.  One well worth your attention.