Hell or High Water
Dir: David Mackenzie
Read this sentence: In Texas, two brothers, one just trying to do the honourable thing, one just a little wild (and doomed to a dark end) stage bank jobs whilst being pursued by a day-before-retirement lawman. It sounds like a cliché, doesn’t it? Yet Hell of High Water takes that simple plot and layers it with the weary fatalism of a post-GFC United States and some superb character work to create a terrific film in the vein of No Country for Old Men.
Taylor Sheridan’s script is razor sharp, creating an elegy for a disappearing small town America where For Sale signs rule the landscape and foreclosing banks are considered arch villains. This is the motivation for these robberies: saving the family farm. That raises another cliché alert, but in a taut film space is made for nuance and commentary on everything from family legacies to TV evangelists.
That the neo-noir westernisms of Hell or High Water enable both laugh out loud humour as well as tense set pieces is key to its success. The central performances add to the key ring. Chris Pine is terrific, demonstrating that there is more to him than just leading man good looks. Ben Foster does ‘crazy’ reliably well but it is Jeff Bridges who steals the show. Gifted wonderful lines he delivers the kind of character that sequels are built around. A soundtrack by Australians Nick Cave and Warren Ellis is noteworthy too. Hell or High Water is worth a visit.