A Rootin’-Tootin’ Texan Flick in “Hell or High Water” (Movie Review)

Hell or High Water (2016)
CBS Films, Sidney Kimmel Entertainment, OddLot Entertainment

Directed by: David Mackenzie
Written by: Taylor Sheridan
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, Ben Foster, and Gil Birmingham

The Good
Chris Pine gets a chance to really show some range with his character. As the movie progresses, we get to see multiple sides of his personality and the factors that drive his motivation. If you think you’ve got his character completely figured out, a small twist is thrown your way in just a couple of scenes. Furthermore, Ben Foster (who plays the older brother) assists in bringing the more rugged, and sometimes comical, element to the film. The complexity of the brothers’ chemistry is a strong point.

Right off the bat, you get a good sense that this is a Texan movie. The film captures the atmosphere of the small-town settings and even the type of people perfectly. If you’ve never been to Texas, you’ll feel as though you know about it after watching this film.

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When the movie does have action scenes, they are pretty good. While they may not have been the most intense, they still help to drive the story and keep viewers intrigued. My personal favorite is Ben Foster’s action sequence toward the end.

The Bad
A negative of the film is the one-sided, lopsided banter between Jeff Bridges and his partner played by Gil Birmingham. I think that if there are going to be any type of insults or banter that crosses the politically correct line, then at the very least it should be balanced. Having ten jokes about one ethnic group and maybe only one counter joke is unbalanced. While I can’t speak for them, Native Americans may feel offended watching this film. I should also note, that I’m over Jeff Bridges’s incomprehensible Southern drawl. In some scenes, it becomes distracting.

My other issue is the lack of focus in the attention or direction of the story. It feels like there is a bit of a duality in terms of where the movie is going. On one hand, the film wants viewers to care about the brothers’ financial situation. On the other hand, we’re directed to focus on the various characters’ relationships and their development. It’s not that we get lost in either, but both aspects just kind of fight against the other.

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The Reason
If you didn’t know, Sicario writer Taylor Sheridan wrote Hell or High Water. So you can imagine, if you’ve seen Sicario, a very similar vibe and pacing. Hell or High Water is a solid movie but not a home run. It’ll most definitely appeal to people who enjoyed movies like The Big Short or Sicario. It’s well worth the watch, but for me, it’s more of a watch-at-home type of film. However, I don’t think there’d be much disappointment if someone were to watch it in the theaters for the matinee price. Give it a go, if the trailer piques your interest.

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