REVIEW: Hell or High Water

Paul Miles

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There is nothing particularly new about Hell or High Water.

On paper this is an old fashioned tale about two bank robbing brothers on a desperate mission to save their ranch from foreclosure while being hunted down by the law. It’s all very Bonnie and Clyde.

But where David Mackenzie’s heist thriller excels is through its central performances and the world it inhabits.

This is a Texas swamped in economic decline and in danger of rusting away and where the crippling greed of the bankers lies thick in the Texan air.  

The soundtrack by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis adds to the feeling of a place struggling to meet the demands of modern America and where ordinary people are forced to take drastic measures in order to survive.

Ben Foster and Chris Pine play the two gun slinging brothers who quickly become out of their depth as the scale of their crime spree ramps up and the tension tightens.

Foster brings a frantic energy to his character, hell bent on living his destiny while sympathetically looking out for his younger sibling.

A brooding Pine is the smart one, coming up with the plan to save his ranch from the clutches of the bank by using its own money. You’re left willing them both on every step of the way.

Hunting them down is Texas Ranger Jeff Bridges, reprising his mumbling Texas slur from the Coen Brother’s True Grit and a character who seems happiest when throwing racist insults at his colleague.

Bridge’s dry humour and taste for old fashioned police work helps bring a lighter side to this cops and robber tale including one stand out scene at a T-bone steak restaurant.

As the action unfolds, the audience is left sympathising for both sets of characters who are all given the chance to shine while the suspenseful pacing also elevates the set pieces.

It all makes for a satisfying slice of grown up cinema – an old school western propelled into the modern age.

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