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Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Once Upon a Time in West Texas

The best film of the year so far is ‘Hell or High Water,’ director David Mackenzie’s neo-noir contemporary western based on a screenplay from talented writer/actor Taylor Sheridan, who previously penned the script of Denis Villeneuve’s excellent drug war thriller ‘Sicario.’  A crowd favorite at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, HOHW is not just your typical run-of-the-mill heist movie but also a deep social commentary on our troubled times.
 
Chris Pine and Ben Foster portray two brothers who become modern day “Butch and Sundance” of sorts as they rob a series of banks across the Midwest in order to keep their ranch from being foreclosed by greedy lenders after their irascible mother passed away.  Since their bank robbery spree is too trivial for the FBI to get their hands dirty, soon-to-retire Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) and his half-Injun-half-Mexican partner Alberto (Gil Birmingham) take on the merry chase to bring them to justice.  With the noose tightening around the outlaw siblings, can they evade the long arm of the law intact?
 
Evoking Sam Peckinpah and Clint Eastwood with a dash of Coen brothers, HOHW is a tale of crime and punishment whose desperados are complex and conflicted anti-heroes whom we can’t help but have some sympathy with even if they’re bad guys.  Bridges is always a pleasure to watch and provided levity to an otherwise depressing story, but Pine delivered what had to be his best performance to date while Foster is also memorable as the big brother who decided that, if he was going to go down in a “blaze of glory” so to speak, he might as well christen himself Lord of the Plains.  Come hell or high water, do yourself a favor and go see this powerful tour de force of a movie.

Grade: A+

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