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Hell or High Water

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Sometimes you just have no idea what to expect from a movie. Let’s take Hell or High Water for example. If you’re like me you probably have a good idea as to who Chris Pine and Jeff Bridges are, and maybe even Ben Foster. Outside of that, the names may not roll off of your tongue as quickly upon seeing their faces. Heck, you may not have any idea what Hell or High Water is even about. That’s the beauty of the movies. You don’t necessarily have to know before you go. Director David Mackenzie (who?) is the man behind the camera looking to make splash with a few big names and a compelling story.

Much of American is, or has been recently, in a challenging financial state of despair. The economy has been in a downturn (depending on who you ask) and the overall consumer confidence of Americans is less than stellar these days. So folks are just up and leaving their homes while others are fighting like crazy to try to keep theirs. Two West Texas brothers decide to do whatever it takes to make sure the greedy banks can’t take what’s rightfully theirs. Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster) go to extremes to keep the home in which is currently in danger of being defaulted on. They have a very short time to come up with a whole lotta cash in order to stop this process. The only way to get the money needed is by illegal means, in this case robbing banks. A plan is hatched and executed, but like most plans created out of desperation, mistakes will be made and the law will be looking to pounce on them the first chance they get. This high stakes game of cops and robbers will have audiences hooked from the start.

Everyone loves a good heist movie and Hell or High Water has a lot going in its favor. Director David Mackenzie (Starred Up (2013)) may not be a big name but he is making the most of his opportunities thus far, racking up all kinds of awards and acknowledgements from his previous works. The man tasked with writing the engaging story was Taylor Sheridan. This is only his second attempt in this role, the first being 2015’s Sicario which was an extremely solid first outing. Sheridan continues his stellar writing as this new work is just as gripping an unpredictable as his first. There is great strength in Hell or High Water from behind the camera which is reaffirmed in all phases of the movie.

The work done by actors in front of the camera is equally impressive. Chris Pine (Star Trek Beyond (2016)) is very much a down to earth no muss, no fuss kind of guy with his role as the younger brother, Toby. He has a very calm, somewhat of a deer in headlights, kind of demeanor to him for the most part; although there are a few exceptions to that. Ben Foster (Lone Survivor (2013)) is definitely the live life moment to moment type of person when it comes to his character, Tanner. He has more of the act first, think second (if at all) mentality which leads to some very eventful situations. These two are a good pairing and have the on screen appearance of the bond that two brothers might have. I’m sure they’ve become quite accustomed to one another as this is the second time they’ve worked together in a very short span. Both also starred in this year’s The Finest Hours together.

On the other side of the law, Jeff Bridges (True Grit (2010)) plays Marcus, a soon-to-be retired officer of the law. Bridges feels right at home with his gruff tone and smart ass politically incorrect quips. He also assists in adding the lion’s share of lighthearted moments experienced throughout this mostly serious drama. His partner Alberto is played by Gil Birmingham (the Twilight franchise), ands ends up being the target of Marcus’ misgivings. Quick side note: click here to check out our one-on-one interview with Mr. Birmingham. Regardless of the razzing, there is a deep professional mutual respect between these two men. Katy Mixon (CBS’s Mike & Molly), Dale Dickey (HBO’s True Blood) and Kevin Rankin (Fox’s Lucifer) are a few of the other actors lending small, but worthy performances.

With a compelling and empathetic tone, the message of Hell or High Water is one that the majority of audiences will be able to get wrapped up in. Although there’s a clear line between good and bad, there are emotional struggles to be had before we’re so quick to condemn unlawful actions. That is the appeal of this movie, most will undoubtedly be rooting for the “bad guys” while at the same time wanting no harm to come to those chasing them. Unfortunately, just as in real life, not every story in life is to have a fairy tale ending. Forget about all of the special effects magic going on in many of today’s movies. Instead sit back, relax and appreciate a film that has been made with great care, forethought and talent going into it. Mosey on down to your local cinema for a little Texas treat.

Hell or High Water is streaming now on the following services:
Movie Reelist Contributor: Carl Wheeler

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