Sunday, September 11, 2016

Hell or High Water (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Hell or High Water

Go get em, Cowboy! This is the overriding thought one has in watching "Hell or High Water," a heist film by David Mackenzie. While that might well be enough, especially with a great cast and solid roles, the story left me oddly wanting more.

Chris Pine (Star Trek Beyond) is Toby, a divorced father behind on his child support. His mother has just passed away and the family ranch is in critical danger of foreclosure. Toby asks his ex-con brother Tanner (Ben Foster) to help in robbing a string of Texas banks to raise the cash.

The film begins percussively in the middle of the story without exposition. The two don dark caps over their faces and look quite scary. This is because we don't know right away what is going to happen or who the men are, so we are instantly hooked. Gun barrels chop the air and voices boom. Though the pair are reluctant to shoot, and they usually don't have to, the brothers are fear incarnate.

After a trio of routine robberies however, the mystery is dispelled. Toby is up against it, ditto for Tanner, and both of them mumble somewhat unintelligibly about ex-wives. The boys soon catch the eye of an older, cantankerous and off-color ranger Marcus, played by who else but the actor who has trademarked a trio of grizzly men, Jeff Bridges.

Marcus sputters croaky racial jokes about his fellow partner, Alberto (Gil Birmingham) being an 'injun,' making Alberto the straight man for Marcus's Archie Bunker-era quips.

Once the gruff and nonchalant Marcus is on the trail, the film falls to convention becoming a white hat / black hat confrontation with the bothers mumbling, scrabbling and horsing about. Not much happens mid-point beyond a shaded hat over the eyes, some casino drear and a big wait.

The real tin star of the film is the British cinematographer Giles Nuttgens who captures dusty and dispassionate stretches of Texas in the manner of a Sam Peckinpah film, when films were bravely manic with gore and flat in karmic melodrama.

Although "Hell or High Water" could leave a few feeling parched for a less predictable film, the final scene is a stand-alone satisfier. Punchy and effective with a wistful quality of O. Henry, it nearly throws a lasso around the preceeding mainstream drama and kicks it to the curb.

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