HELL OR HIGH WATER [2016]

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Directed by David Mackenzie

Written by Taylor Sheridan (screenplay)

Starring: Dale Dickey, Ben Foster, Chris Pine, Jeff Bridges, Gil Birmingham


Shout out to Tom over at digitalshortbread for putting this on my radar months ago. It finally hit our cinemas last month, and after a second viewing, it has lost none of its bite, both thematically and otherwise.

This movie says a lot while delivering an extremely entertaining experience filled with memorable dialogue and some wicked humour. The film starts with a bang as two men rob a bank, and as soon as the action starts, it is immediately clear how well written this film is.

The two men who rob this bank are brothers, and their extremely opposite personalities lend a ton of character to the film. As cliché as it is, blood is thicker than water, and despite a questionable past in which the two have obviously disagreed over the years, the brothers are willing to do anything for each other.

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Older brother Tanner is a loose-cannon, one year free from a ten year prison sentence, with more than a few screws loose. His younger brother, Toby, is a polite southern gentleman, and again this contrast of personality makes for some great moments, as their attitudes towards life, their values, they couldn’t be further apart. But they are brothers, and the unconditional love one has for a sibling truly shines through this violent, Texas-based neo-western. The way they tease each other is just one source of many laughs.

After they hit a second bank, local sheriff Hamilton and his partner Alberto are called in to take the case, as the brothers aren’t taking large amounts of cash, meaning higher authorities have much bigger flies to swat. Again, the difference in personalities between the two cops make for entertaining viewing, especially as Hamilton – three weeks from retirement – loves to make casually racist remarks about his partner’s Native American heritage, while the mild-mannered Alberto tries his best to ignore the remarks, while firing back at his partner with his own zingers.

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The two policemen mirror the two brothers in a way, as both pairs willingly rip into each other, with insults flying both ways. Their bonds are tight enough though that no insult is going to result in the holding of a grudge, and both pairs care deeply about each other, whether they’d like to admit it or not.

The obvious question posed to the viewer from the opening scene is – why are these two robbing banks? Tanner obviously does it because he is insane and enjoys it, almost seeing it as a game, but his brother couldn’t be more uncomfortable, especially when he sees his brother become violent. The post financial-crisis background, where we also see struggling farmers, may have something to do with it, but unlike 99 Homes, this theme isn’t overt, it is comfortable in the shadows, allowing the viewer to take it or leave it. There is also a theme of poverty running through the brothers’ blood, Toby at one point referring to it as an inheritable disease.

As for the final act, it is executed perfectly, with some action packed, bullet-riddled scenes and a belting climax that isn’t only entertaining as all hell, but it also packs some emotional heft. The very last scene ends on an interesting note, giving the viewer much to chew on once those credit roll.

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With some fantastic characters and needle-sharp dialogue, this film is certainly entertaining. Adding further to this potent cocktail is some six beer(1)incredible photography shot in New Mexico, not to mention a fantastic soundtrack comprised of appropriately southern songs along with an original score written by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, who now have several soundtracks under their belts. As the credits roll, the track Outlaw State of Mind by Chris Stapleton couldn’t be more appropriate. Is this film flawless? Probably not, one could argue that it offers nothing new to the genre. But it is executed so damned well, I can’t find anything to dislike about it.

Fans of No Country For Old Men need to check this film out immediately.

A full sixer.

6/6

16 Comments on “HELL OR HIGH WATER [2016]

  1. It is a near perfect film, I can’t for the life of me find anything wrong with it. Jeff Bridges is so good, up there with his roles in Lebowski and The Fisher King. Definitely rent when you can, and turn up those speakers! The soundtrack is incredible

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh cool! Glad you liked it, I have a mate who refused to see it because its ‘from that part of the world’ (Australia is the most racist country on earth, its disgusting) and while I suppose maybe the accents can be heavy, I just can’t understand that reasoning. Its not a western! Some folk need to open their minds I think

      And yeah, the concept doesn’t sound exciting but the execution of it is near perfect. Plus what a great soundtrack!!

      Like

  2. Wonderful review (as always). It has been on my list for a while and now with your review I’ve pushed it up to the top somewhere. Can’t wait to watch it. Jeff Bridges is one of my favourites!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bridges is so good here. Everyone is, its a standard formula for a movie but the execution is just perfect. And Nice Cave and Warren Ellis handling the music? Hell, its impossible to go wrong!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Honored as always to get a shout out on an esteemed blog! Thanks buddy.

    Hell or High Water is a nice big cup of kick-ass. I loved it and can’t wait to see it again. And agreed — the chemistry between the two pairs was vital to how not only the drama played out but how we were able to enjoy it and empathize with both sides. Classic cops-and-robbers story but with real flesh-and-blood characters with purpose.

    Liked by 2 people

    • bah, esteemed? pish posh!! ;P

      You’re welcome mate, I may have missed this one if I hadn’t caught your review.

      And your comment is spot on. The two relationships are strong and the opposing personalities makes it even better. Especially sheriff Hamilton and Alberto, heh they cracked me up constantly. And how about that ‘rattlesnake’ of a waitress!! That had me coughing my lungs up in laughter

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh man that part was great! I forgot about that. And yeah I would agree that the officers’ relationship was actually more fun to watch, while the brothers’ were more firmly rooted in the plot. Both were great. And this role really really made me a fan of Chris Pine. Haven’t been all that big on him up until now.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I hadn’t heard of either of those two leads, nor the director, so this one was a surprise (though not as much cos I had a feeling it’d be good from your review). Bridges though wasn’t surprising, I think it is one of his very best, up there with Lebowski and Fisher King. And True Grit to some extent

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Nice review buddy! I’m not sure I liked it quite as much as you, but I definitely enjoyed it a fair bit. I thought it had a surprising amount of depth and the character interactions were really quite engaging. Also, Jeff Bridges is so good in this. His performance was by far the highlight for me.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Bridges in this film is amazing. And the two relationships, the cops and the brothers, they were highlights as well. Oh, and can’t forget the comedic elements of it. Reminded me a lot of a Coen film

      Like

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