Hell or High Water — you’ll hear — is much like No Country for Old Men and like other Coen Brothers films, or even early John Dahl of Red Rock West and The Last Seduction.
And what you’re hearing is correct.
Characters of less than moral character dot the film’s landscape. Two brothers, Tanner and Toby Howard, rob banks. Tanner is just out of prison. Toby is divorced and estranged from his ex and the kids. The robberies have something to do with a ranch their late mom left them.
Chasing the two men are Texas Rangers Marcus Hamilton and his partner Alberto Parker.
Director David Mackenzie takes Taylor Sheridan’s (Sicario) gritty screenplay and an excellent cast and packs it with visuals that plant you squarely in the middle of West Texas. Ben Foster (Warcraft) plays older brother Tanner. Chris Pine (Star Trek) is the younger, more reluctant Toby.
Both benefit from excellent camaraderie with each other and from Sheridan’s mostly tight script. Foster — as he is with most parts — is intensity personified. Playing a loose cannon is a rare skill, and few actors do it as well. Pine has been limited to sci-fi and comedy. He takes a huge leap and does something with more dimensions than his characters usually possess.
Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham are the law. I’m a huge fan of Bridges, but not so much here. He overdoes Hamilton much like he overdid Rooster Cogburn in the True Grit remake. The guy is supposed to be a bit puffed up, but Bridges overplays his hand. Part of that may not be his fault. Until the climax, the script doesn’t give him much to do but mumble lines and toss insults at Native American Birmingham.
It’s the film’s only flaw.
Hell or High Water and its great soundtrack makes you feel the sand blowing across Texas roads and stinging your eyes. There are pulse-pounding chase scenes and intense, violent confrontations and equally intense conversations.
Hell or High Water
Director: David Mackenzie
Stars: Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Jeff Bridges, Gil Birmingham
Mr. Movie rating: 5 stars
Rated R for violence and language. It’s playing at Fairchild’s Queensgate 12.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen.
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it’s your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 stars to 1 star: Don’t bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.