Director David Mackenzie wastes no time in getting his latest film rolling. Taking the old editor’s adage of “get in late, and get out early” to heart, Hell or High Water stomps right into the action with a bank robbery that is a near perfect table setting for the film. Right out of the gate, we catch up with our bank robbing protagonists awkwardly pulling off an early morning heist. Writer Taylor Sheridan does a great job with the details, showing at once the odd combination of skill and ineptitude this duo brings to the robbery game, giving us a volume of back story in a tidy little opening sequence. Chris Pine stretches his dramatic legs nicely in this role, distinguishing himself from his more recent tent-pole affairs helming the Starship Enterprise.
Ben Foster is convincing as the wild-card, ex-con brother and the two have a great on-screen chemistry that makes their brotherly affection feel genuine and heartfelt. Jeff Bridges shines as the grizzled law man that’s on their tail, with Gil Birmingham playing the perfect foil to Bridges’ loving, but decidedly antiquated sense of humor. The film has a bit of fun, tossing a Robin Hood sense of poetic criminal justice in the actions of the protagonists. Yet, Mackenzie doesn’t linger there long, bringing the pervasive Texas gun culture to the fore instead, leaving no doubt about the brother’s outlaw status. This talented cast and crew has made a tightly edited and lean story, with standout performances all around. All in all, it makes for a thought-provoking and engaging tale that they button up with a great modern spin on the old Western showdown. Definitely worth the price of admission.