Hell or High Water, rated R
This film begins with brothers Toby (Chris “Captain Kirk” Pine) and older brother Tanner (Ben Foster) arriving early morning at a small Texas Midland Bank branch to rob it. That same bank is going to foreclose soon on their recently deceased mother’s family ranch. She had taken out a reverse mortgage on the home to help with expenses in the poverty stricken area of West Texas. Now, the brothers owe the bank about $40,000 if they are going to keep the ranch in the family. The goal is to pay off the bank with the bank’s own money.
Tanner is recently out of prison and short-tempered. He had shot and killed the boys’ father in a “hunting accident”. Toby is divorced and well behind in child-support payments to his ex-wife. He would like to keep the ranch and put it in a trust for his two sons. Toby comes up with the plan for the bank robberies in which they only take small bills from the register to avoid dye packs and the interest of the FBI. Toby also comes up with an ingenious plan to launder the money they steal.
Academy Award winner Jeff Bridges portrays Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton. He is a few weeks from retirement. His partner is Mexican/Comanche Alberto Parker, played by Gil Birmingham. Hamilton continuously throws racist comments at Alberto, which come off humorously, as he obviously cares for his partner. There is good chemistry in the film between the two. As the FBI is not interested in the small-time robberies, Hamilton and Parker, begin to pursue the brothers.
The film is directed by David Mackenzie and written by Taylor Sheridan, who wrote 2015’s Sicario. It features good acting performances from Bridges and Pine, as well as a few extras in small roles, particularly two sassy waitresses played by Margaret Bowman (T-Bone) and Katy Mixon (diner). There is quite a bit of music in the film, which is well handled by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis.
Even though the film clocks in at less than two hours, it seems much longer as the film moves along sloooowly. It earns it’s “R” rating for language, including several abuses of God’s name, violence, and one brief scene of sexual content. The film effectively portrays the poverty of West Texas and the hopelessness of the people living there (though the film was actually shot in New Mexico due to lower costs in New Mexico). The main characters were almost always drinking, usually beer, and everyone seemed dirty; badly in need of a shower.
The film also tries to portray the bank as the “bad guy” to try and make you cheer for successful bank robberies. It raises the moral question “Does the ends justify the means”?