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Hell or High Water : Movie Review

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Hell or High Water 2Brothers Toby and Tanner Howard, set out to save the family homestead in David Mackenzie’s Hell or High Water. When their mother dies, the local bank that holds the mortgage to their Ranch is less than forgiving about the family’s financial situation and threatens to take the only asset that they have. Divorced father of two Toby and his ex-con brother Tanner, devise a scheme to steal just enough money, from the bank that holds the title of course, to save the ranch. The plan is to hit small local branches of the bank, taking a little bit here and a little bit there without shedding blood, while hurting the institution itself just a bit but not its customers or employees. Things seem to be going smoothly for the brothers until two Texas Rangers decide to set their sights on the string of robberies and a “just-a-few-days-from-retirement” Ranger Marcus, specifically decides to make the case his final hurrah.

Hell or High Water 3The performances in this film are top notch. Chris Pine as Toby Howard is a morose and driven character who manages to realistically deliver moments of lighthearted interaction with his brother, despite his overall goal and tone, in a manner that makes him seem authentic. I don’t think that Pine’s acting abilities are highlighted particularly often, but this is the best that I’ve seen of him to this point in his career. Ben Foster, who plays his bother Tanner, also executes a strong performance, displaying a character who you know can and will fly off the handle at any moment, but that exhibits enough charisma and personality that you’ll end up cheering for him regardless. Jeff Bridges, who plays aging Texas Ranger Marcus, would easily steal the show if the performances of Pine, Foster, and Gil Birmingham who plays his partner, fellow Texas Ranger Alberto Parker, weren’t so good themselves. That’s one of the things that works so well for the film; 4 top notch performances that create entertaining characters who we enjoy watching engage with one another.

Hell or High Water 4Adding to the strength of the performances the depiction of landscape and setting acts in itself as a character, fully realizing the creation of a modern neo-western framework for the story to exist inside of. The cinematography paints a portrait of a dying Texan Americana where foreclosure signs, decaying ranches, and rusted machinery speak of financial exploitation, an apathetic economy, and the predatory nature of the banking industry. Visual depictions of dried expanses of grasslands lie littered with the ruins of an obsolete manufacturing industry and towns crumble and fade in the absence of sustainable employment. It’s a gritty and bleak snapshot that imbues the film with a sense of authenticity despite its tropes.

Equal parts heist movie and modernized western, Hell or High Water, is just a really well put together film. The characters are good, the plot is good, pacing, editing, and the acting are good. It all comes together to tell an intriguing story, and while its atmosphere can often seem bleak and hopeless, the characters give you something to root for. It may very well end up being the best film of 2016.

Hell or High Water Poster

Hell or High Water (2016)
Director:  David Mackenzie
Studio: Lionsgate Studios
Genre:  Crime / Drama
MPAA:  R
Release Date:  August 12th, 2016
Author:  Angela Colgan

Angela Colgan Angela Colgan is a San Diego native who recently graduated from college with a double major in Visual Arts Media with a film emphasis and History with an emphasis in war, revolution, and social change. She is currently employed at a local start up video production company, working on a few short online comedy series’ that will eventually launch on their own internet television website. A fan of movies since a very early age, Angela has been appreciating, arguing about, and reviewing films amongst family and friends her entire life, often much to their annoyance. A fan of all genres of film, she is particularly a fan of old movie classics, horror films in all of their different manifestations, and one-liner filled action romps from the late 1980’s and early 90’s. She hopes to work in the commercial film industry in the near future in either post-production editing, or sound design.

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