Hell or High Water (2016) | Cannes Film Festival | Un Certain Regard 2016
Director: David Mackenzie. Writer: Taylor Sheridan
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine
102min | UK/US | Crime Drama
HELL OR HIGH WATER is a rangy neo noirish Western with a contempo political undercurrent courtesy of actor turned writer Taylor Sheridan’s witty writing which we first enjoyed in 2015 competiton title Sicario. British director David Mackenzie (Starred Up) continues the good work in this Texas-set heist outing with a standout performance from Jeff Bridges (although it’s difficult to understand his Texan drawl). And Texas is a bit tired round the edges here as brothers Toby and Tanner (Chris Pine and Ben Foster) embark on the dodgy business of robbing banks. The humour sparks from their cynical repartee as they go through the motions of petty crime for paltry financial gain.
Toby and Tanner embark on their spree early in the morning so as to steal a march on the banking staff before they are really geared up for the day. This is a high-risk business, and they only take small amounts of untraceable bills so it’s not worth the bank’s while to pursue charges. Toby was very much his mother’s favourite and the sole beneficiary of her will which left him in control of a property on oil land but he has signed this over to his children in trust and doesn’t have a wife to worry about since his divorce; robbing and heists have become a way of life rather than a desperate need, and he still goes through the motions to support his brother Tanner, a career criminal who got nothing in the Will, so there is a kind of irony in the plotline that adds faintly to the all round humour.
Meanwhile, Marcus is dryly played by Jeff Bridges chewing his words in his usual style and with eyes fixed firmly on the trail through his Wayfarer sunglasses. His partner Alberto (Gil Birmingham) is a Native American and they share an affectionate relationship – this is the kind of film that doesn’t pull its punches – with some political incorrect racial jibing – in the best possible taste. Marcus is on the verge of a retiring but reticent to really give up knowing that not much else awaits him afterwards but the inevitable, the couple mooch around town often visiting the same old diner where they are well-respected by the feisty old local waitress who would nevertheless would give them the cold shoulder if they went too far off the main menu selection by ordering the trout like some out-of-towner did back in 1987.
This is an enjoyable crime thriller with some fierce moments between Marcus, Toby and Tanner that come as no surprise, but engagingly so, and it all fits its into the sun-baked landscape with some vicious dust-ups and convincing action scenes. Brilliant all round , Saturday night entertainment – or any other night, for that matter. MT
ON RELEASE FROM 9 SEPTEMBER 2016