Hell or High WaterCannes Film Festival 2016
Anti-glam pseudo-gangster crime film with a western vibe, Hell or High Water has it all. Sarcastic and pleasingly wild, David Mackenzie gives the well-trodden genre of heist flicks a surprising social dimension. Full-blown Americana spirit, but aware of contemporary issues, Hell or High Water is the small-town gangster story that could happen today.
Brothers and impromptu bank robbers Tanner (Ben Foster) and Toby (Chris Pine) start emptying the drawers of local bank branches in a last-chance desperate race to save their ranch, getting rangers (led by the charismatic Marcus, played by Jeff Bridges) worked up and policemen on their tracks on the highways of Texas.
Structured on a main-character duo (as a self-respecting robbery movie should), the protagonist dynamic works. Despite a few glitches in climax building, and maybe missing the chance of exploiting the tight timeframe further, Mackenzie knows how to make a heist film not only very specific to its setting, but also politically critical. Hell or High Water is a fundamentally Texan story, tied heart and soul (or rather, plot and visuals) to the wild prairies. From the beer brand to the troops of pick up trucks, description of Texas towns is spot on, using all more or lesser known clichés to humour the state.
Hell or High Water also sets a much too realistic scenario of money-sucking banks and the petrol monopoles of the United States. Looking at the most recent political tendencies in the US, the film sides without regret with anti-bank Robin Hoods, but not without a latent nostalgia for the times when guns solved disputes.
Evident fan of panning (kudos to the opening sequence), cinematographer Giles Nuttgen’s camera scans the wild prairies and even manages to insert, without overdoing, the usual overhead shots that are synonym of car pursuits. The country soundtrack also works perfectly – even better when Tanner screeches along with it.
Mackenzie gives a broke father and his wild brother the chance to fight against the establishment for what they think is right, maintaining a “real Texan” hardness and (luckily) avoiding the sentimental factor family matters tend to bring about. Any “I love you” is followed by “go fuck yourself”, and efficiently mixes the gritty nature of a gangster flick to the underlying motives. David Mackenzie manages to keep both attitudes, with a good alternation of funny and serious.
Wacky and sarcastic, Hell or High Water goes all in: expect car chases, explosions, as well as anti-establishment commentary (not just in the margins). No compromising: rangers, casinos, motels and lots of guns.
Hell or High Water does not have a UK release date yet.
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Watch the trailer for Hell or High Water here: