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Hell or High Water Movie Review

Hell or High Water Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD cover art
Hell or High Water is now available on home video. Read our review of the Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo.

Hell or High Water (2016) movie poster Hell or High Water

Theatrical Release: August 12, 2016 / Running Time: 102 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: David Mackenzie / Writer: Taylor Sheridan

Cast: Jeff Bridges (Marcus Hamilton), Chris Pine (Toby Howard), Ben Foster (Tanner Howard), Gil Birmingham (Alberto Parker), Dale Dickey (Elsie), William Sterchi (Mr. Clauson), Katy Mixon (Jenny Ann), Amber Midthunder (Vernon Teller), Margaret Bowman (T-Bone Waitress)

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Veteran character actor Taylor Sheridan transitioned to screenwriting on last year's Sicario and got plenty of people's attention in the process.
He's already in post-production on his first film as writer-director, next year's Wind River. But before that and before the Sicario follow-up Soldado, we get Hell or High Water, a Cormac McCarthy-esque Texas thriller that Sheridan penned and the UK's David Mackenzie directs.

Hell or High Water is a cat and mouse tale of cops and robbers. The robbers are Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner Howard (Ben Foster), genuine cowboy brothers who have stuck together through thick and thin. The short-tempered Tanner got out of prison a year ago. The brothers' mother has recently died and the ranch she left to Toby's estranged sons is in financial jeopardy. So, armed with guns and ski masks, the Howard boys begin robbing the small and vulnerable branches of Midland Texas Bank. Neither brother is versed in this line of work, but they pull off two heists with little difficulty and a third with a little spontaneity.

Brothers Tanner (Ben Foster) and Toby Howard (Chris Pine) start robbing banks to save the family ranch in "Hell or High Water."

Instantly on the case are Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges), a salty old Texas ranger weeks away from retirement, and Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham), who has to endure his partner's cracks about both his Indian and Mexican ancestry. These two pros supply the film with witty banter as they investigate the crime spree and wait for their two suspects to mess up, in the process encountering the world's most frightening diner waitress and discussing the nature of televangelists.

While there is nothing novel to a film about bank robbers and the authorities on their trail, Hell or High Water makes you forget that as it treats you to the thick atmosphere of a sultry Texas summer. Characters are painted in shades of gray and thus our sympathy is not neatly dispensed to either the lawmen or the thieves who have their understandable motives.

The excellent cast elevates the material. Pine is not someone often heralded for his characterization, but he convinces playing an individual far from his usual leading men. Foster has demonstrated his chops again and again, so it's less of a surprise but no less satisfying to spend time with his wild card. Bridges owns his character so much that it's impossible to imagine anyone else in his role. He injects enough crotchety charm to forgive his racist jokes. And Birmingham, who hasn't had this rich an opportunity before, seizes his part and gives back to Bridges almost as much as he takes.

Texas rangers Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) and Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham) are on the trail of the elusive, unknown bank robbers.

Sheridan again displays flair in his writing, breathing life into old crime movie tropes with three-dimensional characters
and authentic details, from getaways to eyewitness accounts. Mackenzie (Starred Up, Young Adam) isn't the in-demand filmmaker that Sicario's Denis Villeneuve is, but he serves the material very well with appropriate tension and some most agreeable photography from his repeat cinematographer Giles Nuttgens.

Hell or High Water is violent and at times crude, but never without reason. This is an intense potboiler that will invite comparisons to the Coen Brothers' 2007 Best Picture winner No Country for Old Men. Unfortunately, as a product of CBS Films, it may struggle to find an audience. The studio opens this warmly-received Cannes debut in just 30 theaters today, with the intent to expand on critical buzz and strong word of mouth a week later.

Buy Hell or High Water from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + Digital HD / DVD + Digital /Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
Written by Taylor Sheridan: Sicario | Now in Theaters: Suicide Squad Florence Foster Jenkins Pete's Dragon
Jeff Bridges: True Grit Thunderbolt and Lightfoot The Giver The Big Lebowski The Vanishing Heaven's Gate Tron & Tron: Legacy
Chris Pine: The Finest Hours Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit Into the Woods This Means War People Like Us Horrible Bosses 2
Ben Foster: The Mechanic Lone Survivor Kill Your Darlings
No Country for Old Men

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Reviewed August 12, 2016.



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