This movie has been on my radar since everyone started stating how great it was since they first saw it at Cannes. Since then people have just been praising it to high heaven and I must say that might’ve affected my viewing experience. Hell or High Water is undoubtedly a good movie, but it comes nothing close to the greatness everyone has been talking about.
Hot off Sicario, Taylor Sheridan has this Texas thriller to offer, part dark comedy and part societal commentary, this is my problem with the film, it’s either one or the other and never really unites the strands of tones laid throughout. This wouldn’t be a problem if each of these components worked, the thing is one works magnificently and the other one feels lazy. When it comes to providing commentary about the crisis ocurring in rural America, Mackenzie and Sheridan simply resort to showing graffiti and thousands of “For Sale”and “Mortgage” poster plastered around town. It helps you understand the place we’re in but after five minutes of countless signaling at the state of misery their town is in it gets somewhat annoying and overwhelming as none of it is done subtly and just put in your face in a very lazy manner.
That being said, I cannot deny the comedy in this is great. What works so great about it is that it all feels natural and its all based on dynamic relationships. Whether its derived from Pine and Foster’s brotherly bickering or Bridges and Birmingham’s work relationship, it never feels like someone placed a comedic beat in there to add some levity to the intensity of the scene. The timing for everything is also so well done and adds to the laughs as everyone is one their A-game. Although this might be Chris Pine’s best performance ever, its Ben Foster who steals the show as his criminal brother. He’s hilarious, intense, loyal, and a acts like a true brother caring for his younger brother. At the moment, I would put Ben Foster up for a Best Supporting Actor nomination. Though it seems Foster takes the film, Birmingham and Bridges are also a magnificent duo together, with Bridges taking the lead this time. Like always, Jeff Bridges is amazing, funny, grizzly, and truly embodying the Texas ranger spirit in every scene.
With its tone split down the middle, I must also mention even though the pacing for this movie is extremely slow once you hit that climatic scene the film does reach the greatness everyone was talking about even though it takes what seems like a century to get there. Its like a quest, you start off by doing a bunch of tedious chores and once you get to that final boss battle its awesome and you just forget about the rest. The problem here is that even though that final scene is magnificent and you try to forget about the bad pacing, you also have to forgive some of the writing and the schlocky attempt at providing what could’ve been really powerful social commentary.