A modern Western heist film where the bad guys are the banks and the good guys are the criminals… or the cops… or both.
Hell or High Water centres around two brothers, Toby and Tanner Howard (Chris Pine and Ben Foster), who have just lost their mother, and are about to lose the family ranch to Texas Midland Bank. The brothers embark on a bank heist spree pursued by two Texas Rangers (Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham). It’s a story of family, poverty and hope.
Pine impresses as the pragmatic Toby Howard, walking the fine line between right and wrong and he’s the audience’s gateway into the mindset of the heists. It’s definitely a career best from him. Foster, too, is great as the more unpredictable and reckless brother Tanner. The relationship between the two brothers, and the one between the two Rangers, are the focal points of the film. We actually see far less of the heisting than we do of the planning and emotional fallout. It’s very character driven.
The story itself unfolds slowly but satisfyingly. There’s not too much to it – not many twists and turns as such, but it’s a well paced plot and is involving enough to keep you entertained and interested throughout. It explores well the issue of poverty in modern America – there are occasional billboards advertising debt consolidation and endless loans on the saturated landscape shots. It’s the expert cinematography, too, that adds an air of the depression that’s almost suffocating.
Bridges offers some comic relief with his interactions with Birmingham, and their relationship is lovely to watch unfolding. The script was great – showing natural relationships, natural conversation. The audience in the cinema were laughing a bit too much really, as it made me think “it’s not that funny” almost every time. What I liked about the humour was that it was realistic, but sitting surrounded by people belly-laughing at it really put me off. That’s not to say that the tone of the film was off, but I might need a second viewing without the audience to make sure.
EXCELLENT. Great performances and an interesting insight into the morality of robbing from those that profit from poverty.