When I first saw the trailer of Hell or High Water a couple of months ago, I thought for sure it’s going to be one of those late summer action films that would be shown at theaters one weekend and disappeared the next. Well as it turns out, it is one of the best reviewed films of the year, maybe the best so far. According to Rottentomatoes.com, out 134 critics who reviewed it, only 2 gave it a negative review. As of this writing, it’s currently sitting at an unbelievable 99% fresh rating on the site.
Set in West Texas, brothers Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster) are bank robbers and as the film opens, we see their acts right away. They’re amateurs but desperate for money, especially Toby who wants to keep his family land from being foreclosed on by the evil banks. Texas Ranger Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) and his partner Parker (Gil Birmingham) are on the hunt to stop these two brothers from committing any more robberies. These four characters are the center of the picture and it’s the chess match between the brothers and Rangers that’s fun to watch. This film can be described as buddy/western/road/action/thriller, it’s quite a lot to describe a film but that’s best way to explain it to anyone.
For a film that doesn’t have a complex plot, the actors need to carry the picture and the performances by the main leads were pretty great. Jeff Bridges gets my vote for best performance of the year so far; no doubt he’ll get nominated again comes awards season for his performance here. He pretty much reprised his role from True Grit and it’s quite fun to watch. His character is on the verge of retirement and he wants to catch these thieves so he can ride out into the sunset as a hero. His constant insults on his partner Parker is hilarious and we audience know he didn’t mean what he said.
Birmingham also stood out as the partner who has to endured Hamilton’s insults but he give as much insults back to Hamilton as well. Watching these two rangers bickers gave the picture more comedic tone than you’d expect in a film like this. Pine, who probably realized he can’t rely on the Star Trek pictures to keep him relevant in Hollywood, wisely accepts this role in a smaller film. He’s very good here as a desperate man who wants his kids to have a better life than his. He also worries about his reckless brother who only decided to rob the banks just for fun. I was never a fan of Foster but he’s effective here as the reckless brother who enjoys violence and knows that his life is over once they’re done with the robberies.
The script by actor-turned-screenwriter Taylor Sheridan is pretty great. Even though it’s a simple story, he was able inject some dark humor, great dialogs and some surprises here and there. I do wish he’d toned down some of the hate directed at the evil banks; yeah we get it, many people suffered because of these greedy bankers. Some of the dialogs tend to get a bit too preachy for my liking, especially when Toby and Hamilton had their confrontation.
Director David Mackenzie also did a good job of setting moving the film along as a brisk pace. It’s obvious that he took inspirations from films of Sam Peckinpah and The Coen Brothers. Some even compare this film to No Country For Old Men. While I agree there are similarities, I still think the Coen Brothers’ picture is superior to this.
Even though it sounds like I love this film, I only liked it. I thought Mackenzie did a good job of bringing a great script to the big screen, I think had it been directed by a more polished directors like David Fincher or Alfonso Cuaron, this would’ve been a near perfect film. I didn’t see any originality from Mackenzie so I can’t call a great film, just a very good one. But it does have a great script and fine performances.
So have you seen Hell or High Water? Well, what did you think?
20 thoughts on “FlixChatter Review: Hell or High Water (2016)”
I can’t wait to see this. It’s outstanding, I hear. A sure fire classic western!
Hope you’ll enjoy it when you see it Cindy, it’s a very good film.
I liked a ton too. Probably a bit more than you, but it is basic. And yet I was pretty much engrossed throughout. Nice review.
Oh yeah it’s a simple story but definitely well made and great performances by the actors.
It hasn’t been a great movie summer, so looking forward to a good adult thriller. Sounds like this fits the bill.
Yeah so far this year it hasn’t been great for movies but it’s nice to see a small film like this comes along during the busy summer season. Hope you’ll like it when you see it.
Still have to wait till it’s out here, but I’m looking forward to this one!
Hope it will get a release in your area soon Nostra! It’s a very good film, especially if you like The Coen Brothers or Sam Peckinpah films.
I only saw the trailer for this a couple of weeks ago, and it looked pretty ‘meh’ at the time. That said, I won’t turn down a movie with such positive reviews! Looking forward to watching this now, thanks Ruth! 🙂
Thanks Allie, this is actually Ted’s review. I’m not really a Western fan but all the positive reviews got me intrigued now. I did like True Grit remake which also had Jeff Bridges so there’s that 🙂
I had the same thought when I saw the trailer and was quite surprised when it received so many positive reviews! Hope you’ll like it when you see it.
My husband watched this and really enjoyed it. Ben Foster is such an underrated actor, I could watch him in anything. I’ll probably check this out eventually.
I can’t say I’m a fan of Foster but he’s effective here as sort of the main villain of the movie. Give it a watch soon if you get a chance.
Nicely done Ted. Starred Up was such a strong calling card and this looks to have built on that promise.
I’ve never seen any of Mackenzie’s films until this one, I thought he did a good job here but nothing spectacular that I’d want to seek out his other work.
Definitely keeping my eyes peeled for this!
It’s interesting that both Chris Pine and Ben Foster have gone up in my estimation over the last few years. I didn’t give either actors a great deal of applause for their initial appearances on film but lately they’ve proved to be very talented. For that reason alone I’ll be checking this out but it’s great to hear plenty of positive remarks from you Ted.
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