Hell or High Water (2016)

Taylor Sheridan is the new Vince Gilligan. I’m certain of it. Few people capture Southwestern antiheroes with such quality.

Hell or High Water, Sheridan’s screenwriting follow-up to Sicario, is about Toby and Tanner (Chris Pine and Ben Foster, both excellent). They are brothers who are financially forced into robbing a series of banks in and around Texas, even if they have different reasons for doing it, and on their trail is Marcus Hamilton (played with (cough) true grit by Jeff Bridges).

It’s not that the robberies don’t go well; it’s that Tanner can’t seem to stop doing them. The brothers could get away with the first few, but Tanner keeps digging them deeper and deeper in trouble until there is no going back. Meanwhile, Toby is just trying to pay back a reverse mortgage so he can give his ranch to his sons. He’s been a bad father, and he wants to do something right for a change.

It’s so realistic. Sheridan and director David Mackenzie (Starred Up) imbue a dimension to these characters that I personally haven’t seen in a robbery flick since Dog Day Afternoon. And Jeff Bridges is great too, no matter if he resorts to an archetypical sheriff. These feel like absolutely real people, not just characters in a movie. (The women are fairly flat, but that doesn’t seem intentional.)

Most of the narrative is deliberately slow, building to a tense, deadly climax and a satisfying confrontation at the end. It’s almost literary in its storytelling, a compliment more reserved for television these days than film.

I’m not saying I loved this film—like, loved-loved— but I chalk that up to word-of-mouth being too great. This is an excellent film, and I liked it. Your mileage may vary, but I can almost guarantee you’ll like it too. More simply put, don’t let this one get away.

3.5 Green

Hell or High Water is in theaters now.

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