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Today
I decided to check out David Mackenzie’s new movie ‘Hell or High
Water’, and man I had no idea how good it was going to be. I’ve heard
awesome stuff around the web, but this is seriously one of the best
movies of the year so far (man I really throw that phrase around a lot,
but it’s true!) Mackenzie also directed the great 2013 prison film
‘Starred Up’ which I also wrote about (check the archives up top), and this guy is quickly becoming
one of our best new directors. Hell or High Water is a masterfully
acted, well-written and perfectly paced modern-day western, that tells a
simple story, yet has a lot on its mind. I also think its depiction of
Texas, and more specifically west Texas, is pretty damn pitch perfect.
The fact that the director is British makes it all the more
unbelievable.

The
story begins with a bank robbery. It follows two brothers living on
their families ranch as they’re trying to raise money by robbing small
local banks. On the other side of the law is Detective Marcus Hamilton,
who catches wind of the robberies and heads west to investigate and
catch the brothers with his partner Alberto. I won’t say any more than
that, but it’s a simple and gripping game of cat and mouse the four of
them play with each other. The whole middle section of this movie takes
time to slow things down and dive into the characters, and it’s probably
my favorite part of the movie. It never drags, but we get to know all
four of these guys, their back stories, and their motivations. It ups
the stakes so much by the time the end rolls around and you care about
all of these guys, knowing well that things aren’t going to turn out
well for one side or the other.

One
thing I wanted to touch on, is how crazy authentic to Texas this movie
is. Every scene and character reminds me of a person I’ve seen or met
living in Texas. People drink Shiners and Lone Star, carry guns openly
(which leads to some scary/hilarious developments later in the movie)
and most importantly, talk like Texans. Some of those might seem like
obvious stereotypes, but from my experience, (especially going through
west Texas) they really nailed the setting. Even the opening robbery
shows the brothers (in ski masks and all) calling the bank teller ma’am,
which is such a small detail, but so important to getting Texas just
right. That authenticity is prevalent in Mackenzie’s ‘Starred Up’ as
well, so the guy has a real knack for capturing the truth in a time and
place.

I
mentioned above that this movie has a lot on its mind. It’s not trying
to be 2001: A Space Odyssey in west Texas, but more along the lines of a
movie like ‘Killing Them Softly’. It’s similar in that it’s a
traditional crime story set against the backdrop of modern-day America,
with the onslaught of crippling debt and financial slavery destroying
these small Texas towns. The brothers could almost be viewed as Robin
Hood-types, if their motivations weren’t so selfish. I like that the
movie doesn’t beat you over the head with the themes either; they
accentuate the setting and place. Director David Mackenzie trusts that
the audience will understand that this is the world of today, and to
survive in some parts of America requires going to extreme lengths.
After all, it would feel pretty good stealing from the bank after
everything they’ve stolen from us, right?

That’s
about it for Hell or High Water. This movie wasn’t on my radar at all
before, but man it’s just so good I’d recommend it to anyone; especially
if you live in Texas and/or enjoy crime dramas. I’m glad that we’re
getting to the time of the year where all of the big awards season
flicks hit theaters. There will be a lot of coverage of those over the
next few months, so keep a look out. I still plan on seeing ‘Sully’, and
probably ‘The Light Between Oceans’ if I get in the mood for a good
cry. As always, thanks for reading and tell your friends about the blog
if you feel so inclined. Have a good one!

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