Movie: Hell or High Water
My Rating: 4 stars
I liked this movie a lot more than I was expecting too. I don’t typically go in for Westerns. And, while this movie was billed as a “modern” Western, I wasn’t entirely sure what that would mean in terms of adhering to, or departing from the classic tropes. I guess I never really liked Westerns because the stakes never made much sense to me. I’ve never been a craggy, old, lone-wolf, with nothing left to lose. I’ve never been at a place in my life where it made more sense for me to sacrifice myself for the sake of making one last demonstration of honor. Maybe it’s a guy thing. Maybe it’s an old person thing. Maybe it’s the kind of thing that only a chronically depressed person fantasizes about—becoming a legend as a martyr. But, I’ve never really identified very much with that kind of character.
If you use these few items that I’ve listed as your criteria for what makes a classic Western film, then this movie really fits the bill. A couple of brothers (Chris Pine and Ben Foster) are following a grueling schedule of robbing small credit unions all across Texas with the hopes of raising enough money to save Pine’s house from foreclosure. But, what makes him your classic Western martyr is that this is now his ex-wife’s house. He won’t directly benefit from saving the home. But, he views himself as a bad person. And, he’s of the opinion that no matter what happens to him, he can redeem himself by providing this last bit of security for his family. So, while the setting and even a bit of the humor feel pretty modern, this is unquestionably a classic Western formula.
I enjoyed this movie a lot. It isn’t the kind of thing I would have selected on my own, but I’d heard so many good opinions of it that I decided to give it a chance. And, I’m glad I did. The movie is simple, and streamlined, and tells a small-scale story in a very elegant way. The acting is great, and the cinematography is pretty stunning. I don’t think it was enough to make me want to go out and start checking out other Western movies, but I wasn’t disappointed that I’d taken the advice to watch this one. I’d say, definitely rent this movie if you run across it.