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Texas Heist Caper: Hell Or High Water
Sometimes people rebound from economic hard times, and sometimes they find the hard times continue to follow them. A pair of brothers go to desperate measures to change their fortune in Hell Or High Water. Toby Howard (Chris Pine) is a divorced father who's behind on alimony payments, as well as on payments on his on the family ranch, which the bank is eager to get for other reasons. Facing foreclosure, he tells his brother Tanner (Ben Foster) about the problem. Tanner, who has done prison time, comes up with a plan. They enter the local banks and rob them, and taking just the smaller bills. After hitting three different banks, they head to Oklahoma, where Tanner uses the money at the poker table to turn the stolen money into more money.
Their heists get the attention of Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges), a lawman on the verge of mandatory retirement. The local authorities, needing an assist, get it in Hamilton and his Native American partner, Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham). They come from Lubbock, where they deal with reluctantly cooperative locals. The pair stays in a local hotel, waiting for the Howard brothers to make their next move. Hamilton sees the robbery patterns, and narrows his focus to just two banks. One of the brothers also goes against their usual script for their next heist.
Hell Or High Water is an interesting picture that reminds me of another film set in Texas - the Oscar-winning No Country For Old Men. Both films feature an aging law enforcement officer trying to close one final case going against a seasoned criminal. Screenwriter Tyler Sheridan follows up his screenplay for Sicario with another crime drama that has some twists. For example, Sheridan provides viewers the difference between Texas Rangers, who do their jobs with dignity and efficiency, and Texas rangers, who find it difficult to make ends meet, and don't blame the children of theirs when they don't want to take over their lands. This marks just the second US picture for the Scottish director David Mackenzie. The pace is a little too slow at times between the robberies, but he captures the sense of emptiness on the wide open spaces.
I enjoyed the work of the leads in this. Bridges does his usual fine work as Hamilton, the Ranger who knows he has to leave his career, but has the restlessness usually seen in much younger men. The widowed Hamilton does not look forward to the time when he's not working, though he does practice relaxing in a rocking chair at times. His life is about cracking cases, and not about leaving that work to someone else. Foster does a strong job as the brains of the Howard outfit, taking the lead on the capers while Toby follows - and sometimes doesn't participate. Pine is solid as the careful Toby, who just wants to keep a roof over his head and care for his ex-wife and family. The one scene between Toby and Marcus shows just how careful the younger Howard can be. Birmingham, who's big screen credits include a couple of Twilight movies, offers very good support as Parker, the partner who's envious of Hamilton, who doesn't understand Alberto's envy.
The plight of the folks who work the land is nothing new. Frank Norris wrote about the hard times over a century ago. The Farm Aid comcerts have become an annual event for those who struggle to keep working the land. Hell Or High Water puts a personal face on the issue. The locals respect the law and sympathize with those down on their luck, but they often have their own version of no snitching. They know they have big business looking for a way to take their livelihood, and they know they can't do much about it. Hell Or High Water shows both the good and bad in Tanner and Toby's intentions, but they at least have a plan with intended benefits. The film doesn't condone robbery, but it shows the sense of desperation the Howards and others feel from day to day.
On a scale of zero to four stars, I give Hell Or High Water three stars. Oh, give me a home?