Hell or High Water Screen 75 of 22 reviews

Hell or High Water

2016

Hell or High Water Poster
  • The best Western since—what?—Unforgiven (1992)? Open Range (2003)? The elemental elements are all there, burnt into its hide like a brand, with no irony, no city slicker condescension: the feel of the land, the promise of the frontier, the regeneration through violence, the outlaws, the lawmen, the colorful varmints by the side of the road. With a twenty-first-century setting, nineteenth-century roots, and mid-twentieth-century cinematic chops, it is what used to be called an adult Western.

  • The film is rich with details. The plot is clever, and its intricacies are beautifully worked out. (The script is by actor-writer Taylor Sheridan, who also wrote Sicario.) Mostly, though, Hell or High Water works because Mackenzie and cinematographer Giles Nuttgens are so alive to the desolate bloom of the West Texas landscape, to the way its heat can seem devil red hot, dust yellow or completely colorless depending on the time of day and the direction of the wind.

  • Made with humor and plenty of style, [...the film] marks the highest profile American release to date for Scottish director David Mackenzie (Young Adam, Starred Up). With a colorful screenplay by Taylor Sheridan (Sicario), the film shows the scope of Mackenzie’s talent for directing performances and staging unobtrusive long takes, while displaying a newfound knack for efficient, involving action. Simply put, it’s one of the best (and most) American films to hit theaters this year.

  • Proving an unexpectedly good fit for the material, the British director David Mackenzie was chosen on the strength of his previous feature, “Starred Up”... Mr. Pine, in a quietly watchful performance (no Captain Kirk joshing here), gives Toby a cagey cleverness that allows Mr. Foster to shine as his gleefully lawless accomplice.

  • The film begins with an impressive long take depicting the tense moments before Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner Howard (Ben Foster) rob the first of multiple West Texas banks. Look carefully and you'll notice some graffiti that reads, "13 tours in Iraq but no bailout for people like us." Throughout this sharp and sometimes violent genre film, similar signs of protest play an important role in communicating a collective rage felt toward the financial industry.

  • Hell or High Water's deliberate pacing gives it the feel of a heist story with its feet stuck in mud — and that's a good thing. When the movie just sits with the characters on front porches or in backyards, Mackenzie's generous, hands-off approach with his actors — most of the conversation scenes play out in long takes with minimal camera movement — yields poignant rewards.

  • One of the more pleasant surprises has been David Mackenzie's enormously entertaining old-fashioned neo-western (can there be such a thing?) Hell or High Water... Sheridan's script — filled with quotable zingers, telling character details, and topical anger — comes to vivid, exciting life with that cast, in particular Bridges, who seems to have finally found another gruff, down-home type worthy of his talents.

  • I rather admired Killing Them Softly's conceptual ambition, even if I didn't think it ever really managed to enfold its allegorical dimension into its main story. But as a stylistic exercise, it's probably the better film. But style isn't everything. In most other respects, Hell or High Water makes far better use of financial malfeasance as a plot point because screenwriter Taylor Sherdian gets specific.

  • Tense, atmospheric thriller that could have done with maybe twelve fewer shots of roadside signs with foreclosure messages or bankruptcy law firms’ numbers on them.

  • Strong side: stellar performances from almost everyone; also highly entertaining in how it devises its action and suspense sequences. (It's a movie that can make one both love and fear the idea of Texas.) Weak side: heavy-handed screenplay in which minor characters get written in, seemingly, in order to give pithy, too-literate encapsulations of this or that Theme facing West Texans Today.

  • A good yarn, patient, filled with four strong performances and makes good of its social deterministic premise and doom-laced atmosphere. It is only limited somewhat by Mackenzie’s addiction to the easy picturesque, which can diminish the tension and straightjacket the movie in spots. Bridges performance alone is worth the occasional missteps.

  • Taylor Sheridan, the screenwriter, who wrote the relentlessly scary drug-war movie Sicario, knows how to set the action in motion, and Mackenzie knows how to keep it rolling. But it goes down some well-worn tracks... [Jeff Bridges] uncannily creates a life-size Western hero from the marrow out. He alone makes Hell or High Water worth seeing.

  • A less interesting film would stop at this culture merely cannibalizing itself, but Hell or High Water has the empathy to make itself about characters trying to break that cycle the only way they know how.

  • A no-nonsense, confidently executed thriller, operating in the same tone and terrain as Rolling Thunder and No Country for Old Men... It's convincing in its depiction of a very particular milieu, fleshing out a fine script by Taylor Sheridan.

  • Taylor Sheridan's screenplay for Hell or High Water follows much the same formula as his script for Denis Villeneuve's Sicario. It begins steeped in clichés of its mid-Texas setting... As with Sicario, the broad strokes of the film's Southwestern stereotypes gradually sharpen into focus as the story pivots to a look at the systemic forces that shape the characters.

  • If "No Country for Old Men" were remade as a heist movie, it might look something like director David Mackenzie's lively Texas-set thriller "Hell or High Water." Grounded in lively performances by Chris Pine and Ben Foster as a pair of bank robbing brothers, with a capable assist from a no-nonsense Jeff Bridges as the sheriff on their tail, "Hell or High Water" tries nothing new but delivers a fun ride.

  • Mackenzie evokes a pervading sense of a nostalgia that is laced with resignation. Capitalism and its vices make the old fights between cowboy and outlaw seem like a walk in the park. The film is at its most gracious and touching when Hamilton is pensive, sitting alone, silently contemplating his approaching retirement and flooding the screen with memories of a time that was no fairer, but that he understood better.

  • It's too modest to be great—that’s surely why it’s in Un Certain Regard rather than Competition, despite the high-profile American cast—but it’s the sort of sturdy, mildly ambitious genre effort that’s now rare enough to feel treasurable.

  • In “Hell or High Water,” the principal sound is the clicking of the screenwriter Taylor Sheridan’s keyboard, which threatens to override the action and might as well punch the dialogue directly onto the screen in lieu of the actors’ delivery. The one respite from this, of course, is Bridges, whose sly, guttural inflections and silent gestures—down to the tilt of his head beneath the outsized brim of his hat—are more eloquent and expressive, more alive, than anything he’s given to say.

  • This bank robbery movie opens with signs dotting the West Texas landscape that say things like 3 TOURS IN IRAQ BUT NO BAILOUT FOR PEOPLE LIKE US, establishing it as the only Oscar-nominated film that grappled with Trump’s America as the train wreck approached. Right up to its unsatisfying, to-be-continued ending, the film’s lugubrious quality marks it as an example of grievance cinema, art-directed for a new era of violent self-pity, economic decline, and racial appropriation.

  • It gives off all the signals of being a tough, resonant little thriller, except that as scripted by Taylor Sheridan, it’s actually an insultingly pat piece of work. Besides being a desultorily predictable study in contrasts, nutty Tanner (Ben Foster) and noble Toby (Chris Pine) are given such meticulously jerry-rigged motivations for their crime spree—it’s a joint fuck-you to unscrupulous bankers and an abusive father—that the ostensible “moral ambiguity” of the material is actually crystal clear.

  • Crushingly unoriginal, right down to using Nick Cave for the soundtrack, and its meagre highlights mostly come from Jeff Bridges’ turn as the sardonically racist Texas Ranger tasked with tracking the fugitives down.

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