T his West Texas crime drama barrels in with the force of a full-gale dust storm over the flat, dry plains of our parched movie summer. Hell or High Water is a good but not great movie with sensational lead performances that elevate it to enjoyably memorable status.
Add to that a pleasing soundtrack composed by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, and stunning cinematography by Giles Nuttgens, who has made several previous films with David Mackenzie (Young Adam being the standout), and Hell or High Water has what we need to quench our summer cinema drought.
We've seen all the tropes before: the bank-robbing brothers (Ben Foster and Chris Pine); the bloated Texas Ranger (Jeff Bridges) who's due to retire in a few weeks; the Mexican-American partner in law enforcement (Gil Birmingham) who bears the brunt of his superior's casual racism; the Indian casinos; the loyalty to family and signs everywhere of widespread poverty, underemployment, and the greed of bankers.
The screenplay by Taylor Sheridan calls to mind his previous film Sicario, a crime drama embedded in the American Southwest in which the endemic racism is part of a deeper study of the cultural milieu. In both films, there is a sense that the storytellers could have mined even deeper veins.
Misgivings, maybe, but the go-for-broke performances by Bridges, Foster and Pine are just so damned enjoyable that little impedes the fun while the movie is unfolding. ♦