For Reel

Hell or High Water (2016)
September 5, 2016, 12:35 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: David Mackenzie
4.5 Stars
Hell or High WaterAs with many of the Depression-era films of yesteryear, Hell or High Water casts its outlaws as folk heroes. If their actions are morally dubious, the film keeps in focus that they are the result of the corrupt civilization around them—they are easy to like as criminals because their scheme isn’t contrived to satisfy a spending spree, rather it involves paying off the bank that foreclosed on their mother’s ranch. When a sympathizing waitress early in the film refuses to provide information regarding their whereabouts, the sense of rage and disenchantment is palpable—there is a widening divide between rural way of life and the rest of the country, shown again by the accusatory harassment a U.S. Marshall (Jeff Bridges) faces when he has the gull to consider his choice of an entrée at a small town T-bone restaurant. Hell or High Water establishes this world well and without condescension, and takes equal care in the way it approaches conversation and affection between men. Bridges’ Marshall relentlessly torments his partner (Gil Birmingham) about his heritage all before musing that one day it’s those vile insults that his partner will miss the most. If it’s a poor excuse for the flippant racism, it becomes clear that the character is confessing his affection for a close friend. Beyond its thrilling employment of genre conventions, Hell or High Water‘s great attribute is this sentimental current just below the surface—the love between men, the nostalgia for a lost era, and the bonds that unite families.

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