Hell or High Water

Brothers “Toby” Chris Pine and “Tanner Howard” Ben Foster rob banks in rural America, they do so for a reason, no-one gets hurt and they get clean away…..most of the time

As the urgency of the heists increases, so does the risk and with repetition comes a pattern. A signature that can be tracked and noticed by local enforcement.

Texas ranger “Marcus Hamilton” Jeff Bridges and his partner of Comanche descent “Alberto Parker” Gil Birmingham decide to pick up the trail.

If you ever wondered why the 2016 American election went the way it did, maybe this goes some way to explain, this is the land of Trump. Desperate people, in broken places looking for answers in improbable people, placing vain hope in whoever might promise easy fixes.

The brothers share a strong familial bond despite Tanner’s recent spell inside, Toby just wants to provide for his estranged family. His ex wife wants him to stay the hell away.

This has echoes of Butch Cassidy and every on the lam heist movie since. Those in the know, will realize nothing good comes of fighting the law. When everyone has a gun and is prepared to use it at the slightest provocation, peaceful endings are in short supply.

Pine and Foster have great chemistry, their rough and tumble fraternal relationship is entirely plausible and believable. Bridges can of course play the curmudgeon lawman in his sleep. He deploys casual racism against his partner, whilst caring about his welfare and enjoying his company without ever admitting as much. Birmingham’s performance is also nuanced, showing resignation and offence yet with glimmers of fondness in the stupidity of his partner’s throwback persona.

Pine hides his movie star persona within a character acting as a representative of all those unable to break free from the poverty trap, in which they find themselves. The scenery is also part of the film, big open spaces, plenty of places to run, to hide and potentially die. The laconic soundtrack adds to the laid back, do it all tomorrow feel.

At times a bit slow but director David Mackenzie and “Sicario” screenwriter Taylor Sheridan allow the story to gradually evolve and are not afraid of framing arty shots, just because they can. There are smatterings of humour and plenty of swearing, these ole’ boys are no angels, their fuses are short as evidenced by a scene at a petrol station.

Part road movie, part family drama and with enough gun-play to satisfy those after something more exciting. This film has plenty to say but does not preach or shout, the underlying message is for some, life just plain sucks. Whether this is the way to break the cycle, depends largely which side of the have/have not divide you reside.


A worthwhile peek into a world hopefully most of do not get to see, desperate people carrying out dangerous criminal acts, albeit for the “right” reasons.