hell or high water poster

Jeri Jacquin

In theatres this week is a film that already has awards buzzing around it. From director David Mackenzie, writer Taylor Sheridan and CBS Films comes a story that asks the question ‘who are the real criminals?’ and who is close to HELL OR HIGH WATER.

In West Texas there is little to see. Small towns are drying up and the oil industry is taking up land for drilling. Divorced dad Toby Howard (Chris Pine) has a cattle ranch and after taking care of his sick mother has a lot of money owed to the bank. Brother Tanner (Ben Foster) comes home from prison to help find a solution to losing the ranch.

The solution is money – and the only way to get it is by walking into a bank and taking it. From the first bank onward there is no turning back for these two brothers and hot on their tails are rangers Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) and Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham).

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Hamilton is a soon-to-be-retired ole cuss who isn’t about to let these boys get away with anything. Parker is all in and keenly aware of his partner’s idiosyncrasies and peccadilloes when it comes to finding out where the bandits will strike next.

What law enforcement doesn’t know is the story behind the robberies. Toby is focused on his goal but rogue brother Tanner has his own ideas of how things should be done. Everything leads to a showdown that changes both sides irrevocably.

Justice isn’t a crime!

Pine as Toby is a simple man who just wants to have something of his own to pass on to his boys. Not in a good place with his wife, there is a rift becoming wider with his boys. Pine’s character just wants to keep what the family has worked for. His performance here is not full of words but when he does speak it has heart.

Foster as Tanner gets to be the bad boy with a heart for the situation his brother is in. He is charming and daring but equally frustrating for Toby which sort of made me laugh. The relationship between these two brothers is crazy deep, funny and throughout the film Foster and Pine have us forgetting they aren’t really brothers!

Bridges as Hamilton is gruffy and a huge smartass! Not happy with the thought of sitting on his porch rocking away the golden years, this case is a chance for him to go out with his name becoming as shiny as his badge. Wearing a gun doesn’t mean he draws it when looking for the two men who are not giving him much in the way of clues. Another awesome performance by Bridges.

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Birmingham as Parker understands his partner’s need to get into this case. Putting up with his one liners and stereotypical statements regarding his Indian-Mexican heritage, Parker lies in wait, retort wise, but when he unleashes it is straight faced dead-on fact and in some cases hilarious. I enjoyed this character and Birmingham portraying it.

Other cast include: Keith Meriweather as the Rancher, Jackamoe Buzzell as the Archer City Deputy, Amber Midthunder as Vernon Teller and Katy Mixon as Jenny Ann.

TUBS OF POPCORN: I give HELL OR HIGH WATER four and a half tubs of popcorn out of five. HELL OR HIGH WATER is an absolute joy to watch and let me tell you why. Not only is the cast weighted equally between Bridges, Birmingham, Foster and Pine but each actor brings their own unique character front and center.

The great state of Texas might as well be a fifth big character in the film with the cinematography that is just stunning. The long shots of the emptiness truly does convey the obvious hopelessness the Howard brothers feel but also others who are equally struggling.

I’m going to also throw in that the soundtrack done by Nick Cave is absolutely stellar from the first frame to the last. This isn’t his first era-themed or western-themed piece as he also did LAWLESS, THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES and THE PROPOSITION.

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HELL OR HIGH WATER has the feel of an old western with its mashing of the line between good and bad guys. It is a question of company’s with money abusing those who have no choice when it comes to the care of their families. Finally, it is back to the land and having a piece of something precious that stays with a person.

This is definitely a film that will bring more questions than answers and that’s what good story telling is all about. Visit the theatre this weekend to see the gritty film HELL OR HIGH WATER.

In the end – blood always follows money!