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Sunday, August 28, 2016

Hell or High Water

HELL OR HIGH WATER

** SPOILERS **

Hell or High Water is a terrific modern day tome of crime, family, and friendship set in the dusty, dilapidated towns of West Texas. Chris Pine, a desperate, determined father trying to do right by his resentful ex-wife and their teenage sons, recruits his ex-con older brother Ben Foster into a series of local bank robberies. Pine is awkward at robbery at first, and too careful; they only hit particular branches of Midland Bank, and only early in the mornings before the banks get crowded. Foster is a volatile hellion, even robbing a branch solo while Pine eats a steak dinner in a diner next door. Gradually and expertly, Hell or High Water reveals the motivations behind their crime spree: their late mother's ranch is about to be foreclosed on by Midland Bank. Pine's plan is to steal enough from Midland to pay the bank back with their own stolen money, and then leave the ranch in a trust to his sons. ("The most Texas plan ever," declares Pine's accountant.) Even though these battlin' brothers don't see eye to eye, Hell or High Water weaves a powerful undercurrent of love and loyalty within their family.

Meanwhile, US Marshals Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham are hot on Pine and Foster's trail, chasing them across the highways of West Texas. Days away from retirement, old man Bridges, crusty, determined, and prone to busting Birmingham's balls with an endless array of racist quips, manages to intuit Pine and Foster's methodology and motivations. The lawmen hunt the outlaws in classic movie Western-style, while Hell or High Water provocatively comments on the poverty and every day socio-economic hardships the people of West Texas face. For those of us weaned on the football-loving optimism of Friday Night Lights, Hell or High Water's bleaker, unblinking depiction of West Texas is harsh, indeed. This is a place where conceal and carry is a proud fact of life; indeed, when one of Foster and Pine's robberies go awry, several local townspeople who are packing open fire and give chase, illustrating the folly of the theory that "the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." Hell or High Water is so effective at making us emphasize with Pine and Foster that they never feel like the bad guys, even when they are, and even when Bridges does his damnedest to bring the long arm of the law down on them.

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