Praise for screenwriter Taylor Sheridan, 'a more whimsical Cormac McCarthy.'

By Darren Franich
Updated August 01, 2016 at 07:56 PM EDT
Credit: Lorey Sebastian

How did Chris Pine wind up starring in Hell or High Water, a tense neo-western thriller about bank robberies in Texas, which hits theaters just a few weeks after Pine’s latest star turn as Captain Kirk in Star Trek Beyond? “I’d been getting scripts from my agents that I didn’t really like,” he explains. “I told them, ‘Look, just send me 10 of the best scripts that you have. Even if they aren’t really appropriate for me. Even if it’s about Ukrainian children.'”

One of those scripts was titled Comancheria, and was written by Taylor Sheridan — the buzzy actor-turned-screenwriter who penned last year’s Sicario. Pine is bullish on Sheridan’s talent. “Just like how Pedro Almodovar speaks a very European cinematic language, Taylor’s a very American filmmaker, and I loved that about him. It’d be like working with a Paddy Chayevsky. It was a more whimsical Cormac McCarthy — not as bloody, let’s say.”

Pine met with Sheridan and ultimately joined the project, which was retitled Hell or High Water. In the film, Pine plays Toby, a desperate last-chancer who embarks on a series of bank heists with his maniac brother (Ben Foster). Toby is a quiet, thoughtful, interior man, and Pine’s performance is quiet and thoughtful and interior – not quite what you’d expect from a man best known for playing blockbuster action heroes. “As a man, and as an American man and as an actor, this also speaks to a specific, archetypical type of guy. The Charles Bronsons, the Clint Eastwoods, the McQueens: A stoic, terse, deeply felt man that has incredible difficulty articulating that deep feeling.”

Pine’s performance in Hell or High Water marks a departure from his action work – although anyone who saw the actor’s hallucinogenically unrecognizable turn in Stretch or his gleefully caddish take on a Disney prince in Into the Woods knows he has range. “Action films unfortunately don’t let you spend a lot of time sitting, so you don’t have much time to create something indelible, or unique,” he says. “A diner scene is just as moving and powerful and important as a action scene in Star Trek. There’s only a certain amount of ways you can say, ‘Come on, let’s go!’ or ‘Let’s do it!'”

Hell or High Water hits theaters on Aug. 12, and Pine believes it will find a place in a crowded summer-movie landscape. “I hope people see it,” he says. “It’s a good thriller. It’s a good bank heist movie. It’s very simple. It is driven solely by the merits of this narrative structure, and by these relationships that are very human.”

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Hell or High Water

  • Movie
  • R
  • 102 minutes
  • David Mackenzie