You might have to go back to 1967’s Bonnie and Clyde to find a film about bank robbers that feels as of its time as David Mackenzie’s Hell or High Water. Written by Sicario’s Taylor Sheridan, this stripped-down folk-hero ballad about two brothers hitting a string of predatory banks in West Texas is steeped in the now. It dials right into the ticked-off social and economic frequency that may very well end up putting a symbolic figure like Donald Trump in the White House.
Ben Foster and Chris Pine play the Howard siblings. Foster, who’s finally found a role that stacks up to his wild-card charisma, is an ex-con who helps his straight-arrow “little brother” (Pine) raise the money needed to stop the bank from foreclosing on their late mother’s ranch, which just happens to sit on millions in untapped oil. They’re born losers in a game that’s been rigged from birth, and now they’re finally fighting back. Jeff Bridges, in leathery, bemused Rooster Cogburn mode, gooses the slow-burn thriller as the world-weary Ranger following their scent — his crusty wisecracks aimed at his partner (Gil Birmingham) mask an end-of-the-road vulnerability he’s too macho to reveal.
Hell or High Water isn’t a flashy movie, but it has an undeniably resonant sense of small-scale justice, not to mention an authentic sense of place that will remind you of other Texas-set masterpieces like John Sayles’ Lone Star and the Coen brothers’ No Country for Old Men. See it, and then spread the word. A