Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Review: Hell or High Water - Bonus Reviews

Screenwriter Taylor Sheridan crafted one of the better film stories of 2015 with Sicario, a gripping thriller about he US/Mexican drug war.  In 2016, another Sheridan screenplay hits the big screen under the careful crafty direction of David MacKenzie.  Hell or High Water is a modern-day Western about bank-robbing brothers with an amazing cast and vast open visuals.  It is simply the very best film I've seen in 2016 so-far.

Ben Foster and Chris Pine star as brothers in Texas who attempt a string of bank robberies in order to get enough money to save their late Mother's ranch from foreclosure.  Foster plays Tanner Howard the hotheaded just-out-of-prison loose cannon.  Often acting on impulse alone, it's not too hard to believe he's spent many a year behind bars.  His younger brother Toby (Pine) is the brains behind the operation and is simply looking to earn a little extra cash to pay child support to his ex-wife for his two sons.  The bulk of the movie centers on the robberies, escapes and the steps the brothers have to go through to launder the money and keep from getting caught.

In pursuit of the two brothers is Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton played by Jeff Bridges.  Nearing retirement, Hamilton is out to achieve justice for one last time before he retires to his front porch.  Bridges is absolutely incredible in this role.  Similar to his Oscar-winning turn in Crazy Heart, he delivers marble-mouthed old-time old-man dialogue that flows perfectly on the big screen.  His mannerisms scream that he's nearing the end of his rope but there's this underlying resolve and determination that make you empathize with the character.  Bridges simply gives one of the very best performance of his career in this film.  Pine and Foster have great chemistry and this is probably Pine's best work of his career.  He really has showed a great deal of range over the past few years in cinema.

MacKenzie lets the West speak for itself in this movie with long sequences of wide-open land shots and gritty small town slices of life.  Rather than dress any set up, it seems that McKenzie simply rolled in with his film crew and started shooting immediately. The authentic gritty look of the film helps add a sense of realism and draws the audience in to the action on screen.  The dialogue throughout seems so natural and unrehearsed.  It's amazing to see such polish and craft from a totally unknown Scottish director.

This movie paces along perfectly and the tension it builds towards the final sequences is unbelievable.  I dare you to try to take a calming breath during the police roadblock scene near the end of the film.  MacKenzie and his uber-talented cast of A-plus actors help make this film one that simply can't be missed.  This movie is still playing in most theaters.  Do yourself a favor and go see Bridges, Foster and Pine at the top of their game in a supremely entertaining movie.  5 out of 5 JRs for Hell or High Water, a film that needs to be recognized come Oscar time.


Three other one paragraph reviews of films I've seen in the past few days:

Jason Bourne - 3 JRs - Another Paul Greengrass shaky-cam special.  Damon is solid as usual in the lead role and the Vegas car chase is nearly worth the price of admission alone.  The motives are not totally clear here and the tech is completely fabricated and laughable at times.  Mr. Robot has set the standard for plausible IT in TV/Film and Bourne falls way short of that bar.

Kubo and the Two Strings - 3 JRs - A stop motion animation film set in Japan, this movie is beautiful to watch but the plot is a bit convoluted and tired at times.  My kids really loved it but I was bored occasionally.  Decent voice acting from a talented cast but this really isn't one of the better animated films I've seen this year.