HELL OR HIGH WATER — Review by Susan Granger

0 Flares 0 Flares ×

Reminiscent of “Unforgiven” and “No Country For Old Men,” this gritty, contemporary Western, set in West Texas, focuses on the Howard brothers, who concoct a plan to wreak revenge on the greedy bank that swindled their dying mother out of her land. Brooding divorced dad Toby (Chris Pine) is determined that his two sons inherit the oil-rich family acreage which is under threat of foreclosure. So he turns to his sociopathic, ex-con brother Tanner (Ben Foster) for help. Read on…

Toby devises a clever plan to rob several small small-town branches of the Texas Midlands Bank, then launder the money through an Indian-run casino, just over the state line in Oklahoma. With untraceable casino checks made out to Texas Midlands Bank, he can settle their debt.

Wearing hoodies and ski-masks, Toby and Tanner start the early-morning heists. But that draws the attention of acerbic, about-to-retire Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) who slyly surmises that these aren’t your usual bank robbers, not meth-heads or sociopaths, since they take only small denomination bills from the cash drawers.

“I may have one hunt left in me,” he tells his laconic Mexican/Comanche partner Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham).

Realistically written with an ambiguous morality by Taylor Sheridan (“Sicario”), astutely directed by David Mackenzie (“Young Adam,” “Starred Up”), it’s an irony-riddled, character-driven drama, authentically set amid foreboding billboards promising debt relief, magnificently photographed by Giles Nuttgens.

While Pine propels the complex, emotionally engaging plot, Foster projects pervasively dangerous volatility. Exuding almost-paternal patience in his pursuit of the outlaws, Bridges affectionately engages Birmingham with relentless racist teasing.

Even bit players have full-realized roles, like the waitresses played by Katy Mixon, Debrianna Mansini, and Margaret Bowman. And the score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis evokes pervasive melancholy.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Hell or High Water” is an exciting 8, moving toward its enigmatic, yet inevitable Lone Star conclusion.

0 Flares Twitter 0 Facebook 0 0 Flares ×
Avatar

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.