It has been a while since I reviewed a western. I thought I might change format a bit from traditional old west films that I think you may not have seen, to review a contemporary western that has just come out on DVD. And though it is not a historically set traditional film, it has all the hallmarks of the old west presented in a contemporary setting.
I am talking, of course, about Hell or High Water, the Film from director David Mackenzie and screen writer Taylor Sheridan starring Chris Pine, Ben Foster and Jeff Bridges. This film follows the trail of brothers Toby (Pine) and Tanner (Foster) as they rob branch after branch of the Texas Midlands Bank, the institution which cheated their family and threatens their home.
But this is no mindless shoot ‘em up action yawn. The characters evoke our empathy while simultaneously repelling us with their lack of morality. The performances are understated perfectly, allowing us to sense not so much the hopelessness of their poverty as their rage in the face of the double dealing bankers. Though rough, uneducated failures, they prove to be smooth, clever and accomplished in stealing from the bank the means to repay what they owe the bank.
And they are doggedly pursued across the rugged west Texas landscape by a scornful lawman (Bridges) for whom we hold equally ambivalent feelings. The characters are so strong and compelling that once Bridges and Pine finally come face to face, we realize the story has transcended the need for virtue to become a tale of life and death in which we can forgive most any moral lapses that come in the name of survival.
If you have not already seen Hell or High Water don’t miss it. And if you like these kind of tales of hard men driven to violence set in the unforgiving panorama of west Texas then you should pick up a copy of my novel, Redemption.