Hell Or High Water
If old masculinity prospers anywhere still, it does so in West Texas. Cowboys and Comanche’s fry in the heat of the films inner circle: the inexhaustible chase of cops & robbers... But, with open carry laws, the poker playing, diner slouching men on the outskirts feel entitled to lend their arms to the cycle too.
Hell Or Highwater knows it’s just one more beat around that burnt up path. From the film’s first 360 degree pan, we suspect a bullet must make its rounds from one end to the other. Thing is, with Hell Or High Water, that bullet stings us no matter which side of the barrel it fires from, cops or robber, cowboy or Comanche. By the time the violence inevitably erupts, we don’t want it like we thought we did.
That’s because, in spite of duplicitous trailers, HoH spends much of its time hanging in diners, motels, and casinos flexing its many tones of masculinity or ebbing together an intriguing political web that ties British Colonization to today's self-destructive economy. White man steals from natives.... New America steals from itself.
Other times it straight up indulges in Texas hospitality, and what better vessel to guide us than Jeff Bridges, a mustachioed sheriff curved into old age like a bent up T-Bone Steak. And of course, as is tradition, it’s his last go at the job before retirement. For a time Marcus (Jeff Bridges) and his partner Gil hole up at a local restaurant, they prepare to order, but their waitress narrows it down, she’s gonna order what she wants to order for them.
That stuff’s fun, when guns get involved, it appropriately isn’t so. Hell Or High Water’s political relevance and guns are uncomfortably familiar. It gets damn tense in parts. We care about these characters, the big and little brother bank robbers, and the old and younger policeman slowly heeding their trail...
Taylor Sheridan, responsible for Sicario’s significant shortcomings, wrote this killer script. Unlike the former, this one doesn’t ditch its focus to chase violence, it leads up to it. It’s patient, lean, and makes us care deeply for both of the two parties it pits against each other. Sheridan knows this place and these people, and he’s got a good handle on virility when he isn’t gawking over it.
Of course, it’s a familiar beast, a buddy cop buddy robber sort with a spastic wild card that threatens to take the train off the rails. But that’s consistent with the film's motifs of tradition and tired successions, and its language spurs enough interest to render it distinguishable.
Hell or High Water draws most comparison to No Country For Old Men, but this one’s not interested so much in evil. The tragedies that occur here are the result of grey-toned human cycles, not the invasion of an unrelatable sociopath. We get what these people want and why, but we don’t always understand why these two ends of the circle must eventually collide. I could see these four characters slapping backs at a bar. But, as fate would have it, they meet on opposite ends of a rifle instead.