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Saturday, September 24, 2016

Hell or High Water 2016 * * * Stars

Hell or High WaterDirector: David Mackenzie
Year: 2016
Rated R
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Chris Pine, Jeff Bridges, Ben Foster

"Only as*holes drink Mr. Pibb". So states the trouper of Tanner Howard (Ben Foster), an ex-con who just got out of the joint. He's a trigger-happy wild man in 2016's Hell or High Water (my latest review).

Quote: "The ex-presidents rip off banks to finance their Endless Summer. Whoa!" Oops, wrong movie, wrong quote. "High Water" is about two brothers from Texas. They instead rob a series of banks that are trying to foreclose on their family ranch. You see their mom died leaving said ranch in debt due to a reverse mortgage. Time for these boys to saddle up, switch cars from village to village, steal regular amounts from the teller drawers, and pay off everything secretively.

Hell or High Water is familiar stuff. Heck, if you've seen Public Enemies, Bandits, Point Break, or even 1986's Wisdom, you know what you're getting into. Oh well. Director David Mackenzie (Spread, Starred Up) does an admirable job to boot. He creates a world in which "High Water" feels like the type of flick the Coen brothers would have made years ago. It's bullets and blood undercut with a little darkness, a little tongue in cheek humor, and shades of a modern-day Western. It has big name stars and another star in the canvasing cinematography by Giles Nuttgens. His camerawork showcasing the Great Plains, gives you the viewer something to stew over. The "Big Empty" becomes the "big zesty". The Lone Star State dons its ski masks, its cowboy hats, its desolate abodes, and its sizzling sirloins. Ha!

Image result for Hell or high water 2016 movie scenes
Anyway, the two actors playing the Howard brothers are Chris Pine (Toby Howard) and Ben Foster (Tanner as mentioned earlier). The Texas Ranger in hot pursuit of them, is played by the veritable Jeff Bridges (Marcus Hamilton). They all immerse themselves in these roles to the point where you forget that it's actually the same guys. "High Water" plays out like a cat and mouse game between everybody with almost no interaction via the gun-toting robbers and their prognostic, old timer cop. Foster and Bridges could easily play these characters in their sleep. Pine however, really comes into his own just like he did in January's The Finest Hours.

In conclusion, Hell or High Water is a nifty little genre piece, a film that feels almost too perfect for its own good. Its score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis is at times haunting and the ending is a non-violent standoff with overly preachy dialogue. Also, the opening shot by Mackenzie is panned to perfection and the shootout scenes are loud and panting. With "High Water's" late August release and commonplace approach, I unfortunately have to give it a fifty/fifty chance at Academy Award consideration. "High Water" as a flick doesn't feel dated but it also doesn't quite meets its "Waterloo" either. Again it's a little too familiar but entertaining in a blithe sort of way. Rating: 3 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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