“HELL OR HIGH WATER” Reviewed: A cool, slow-burning beauty

David Mackenzie / Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Gil Birmingham / Western-Thriller / 2016 / 15 / 102mins

The open road, the wind blowing in your face, a sack full of money and knowing that life can never be as cool as this moment – that’s what makes a great anti-Western. With that in mind, Hell or High Water can safely claim the back seat of the school bus.

Two brothers – one troubled but kind hearted (Chris Pine) and the other a reckless hillbilly (Ben Foster) – embark an a series of bank robberies to save their family farm from the powers that be. Problem is, casual-racist Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) and his Native American partner Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham) are hot on the brothers’ tail.

Neo Western heist thriller: some subgenre that. But my word, for the cinematic aficionado, Hell or High Water is a delight. All the hallmarks of traditional Westerns are cooked on a slow burner, and the tender result is easy on the eyes and tense as hell. It allows drama to seep in, analysis of character and motives, the eerie landscape shots linger. Ultimately, it draws you in.  The action sequences are accentuated by the same lingering camera presence in each scene. It makes you connect more with the anti-heroes only because you become more aware of the little time they have to escape.

With the blood, gore and a few belly laughs, this is safely within Coen Bros.-meets-Peckinpah territory. However, director Mackenzie brings something new – he dissects his characters whilst leaving few breadcrumbs in the script, meaning we’re left to rely on the acting prowess. Thankfully, it’s excellent. Bridges in particular stands out – so much so that you feel the Academy may come along with a nomination come January – but there’s a lot of grit and soul to Pine’s performance. It looks likes he’s turning over a new leaf and delving into award winning territory. Good for him.

For all the composed simple technique and style I’m surprised Mackenzie didn’t mix it up a bit. There’s plenty of time to vary – a stronger emphasis on certain themes, like the regional poverty, would have sufficed. Perhaps this is a missed opportunity.

This is a powerful short story on human nature portrayed in a Western setting and it’s gorgeous combination. It doesn’t take much to appreciate the spectacle but the slow meandering plot will bore individuals less keen. More script please.

Film as a Film – 4 / Target Audience – 4 / General Audience – 3

GRADE

B+

CLICK HERE FOR THE TRAILER

Hell of High Water will be released on DVD and Online by the beginning of 2017

For more film & music gossip follow @THEMOVIEGUVNOR on Twitter. Harry also writes for The Huffington Post.

For more information about the rating system, click here.

MAIN PICTURE:

By Source, fair use via Wikipedia.

The poster art copyright is believed to belong to the distributor of the film, Universal Pictures, the publisher of the film or the graphic artist.

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