If you’re looking at the movies coming out and you’re not into a horror flick (“Don’t Breathe”), a Jason Statham vehicle (“Mechanic: Resurrection”), or a movie about Barack and Michelle Obama’s first date (“Southside With You”), then let me suggest the best movie I saw all summer.
“Hell or High Water,” currently in theaters, is a modern-day Western that not only pays off with great writing and acting, but also has one of the best motives for a bank heist I’ve ever seen.
Chris Pine and Ben Foster play brothers who devise a clever bank-robbing scheme to help save the family farm. On their trail is a Texas Ranger (Jeff Bridges) who is days away from retirement. But instead of phoning it in, he dives headfirst with his partner (Gil Birmingham) to track them down.
Yes, it sounds like dozens of Westerns or heist movies you’ve seen, but what sets this one apart is its refusal to fall into clichés that are rampant in both genres.
First, there are the lead creatives behind the movie: director David Mackenzie, who already wowed audiences with his prison drama, “Starred Up,” a few years back, and writer Taylor Sheridan, coming off his incredible debut script for “Sicario.” (The screenplay for “Hell or High Water” is an original work, in case you’re also exhausted by franchises.)
From the opening scene (a beautiful, long, single take of the brothers cruising by the first bank they are to rob) to the ingenious way the brothers launder the money so it won’t be traced (I won’t give it away, but I have never see this hustle done in a movie), “Hell or High Water” just has a feel of originality and anticipation for how things will turn out that you don’t get often these days – especially in the dog days of summer.
And then there’s the acting. You already know that Foster is going to bring his A-game, and Bridges, when given the right material, can still knock it out of the park.
But it’s the performance by Pine that really is eye-opening. As the soft-spoken Toby, Pine delivers the best performance of his career.
What sealed it for me was the movie’s ending. The subtle work between Pine and Bridges in the final scene is more powerful than any shootout can deliver. (The last line of the movie gave me chills.)
The setting of the movie also lingers. The West Texas we see, a barren landscape that’s filled with signs of poverty, explains the brothers’ motivation. And that Old West feel is evident when later in the movie, as the community is fed up with the robberies, the region’s open-carry law is put on display as many citizens fire handguns and rifles to ward off the brothers.
The best part, though, is simply that “Hell or High Water” is now playing nationwide – so if you need something different from the constant superhero movies and lousy sequels, this is the movie for you.
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