‘Hell or High Water’—No not our Presidential Contest

Boom or bust West Texas. Been there, done that. Wide open spaces, hard livin’ and ‘Texas tea’ aka oil, the only ticket out of poverty or at least destitution. No this is not another ‘There Will be Blood” type of movie. It’s not really about the oil. It is more of old-fashioned Western, but in a new-fangled way. And like most Westerns, it is a morality play which raises the question of what really is justice. Is it just when a bank basically robs from the poor, foreclosing on the land of a poor widow, having previously forced her into bad mortgage deals, and rewards the rich? Is that justice? Well no, it isn’t. And in the old or new West ‘rough’ justice is better than no justice, even if it is brought about not by the law, in this case the Texas Rangers, but by desperate boys trying to make sure the next generation of the family does not have to live through hell or high water. Here is the official summary of this excellent 102 minute movie—-

“Texas brothers–Toby (Chris Pine), and Tanner (Ben Foster), come together after years divided to rob branches of the bank threatening to foreclose on their family land. For them, the hold-ups are just part of a last-ditch scheme to take back a future that seemed to have been stolen from under them. Justice seems to be theirs, until they find themselves on the radar of Texas Ranger, Marcus (Jeff Bridges) looking for one last grand pursuit on the eve of his retirement, and his half-Comanche partner, Alberto (Gil Birmingham). As the brothers plot a final bank heist to complete their scheme, and with the Rangers on their heels, a showdown looms at the crossroads where the values of the Old and New West murderously collide.”

First of all— Chris Pine and Ben Foster are totally believable as feisty brothers, with very different personalities, but who love each other. One a criminal who has been in jail for a decade and is only in his late thirties. The other a divorcee with two sons and a ex-wife, he wants to help out. Jeff Bridges is excellent as well, though of late he seems to either talk with marbles in his mouth, or bad dentures— take your pick. And Gil Birmingham is terrific as his half Indian side kick.

Secondly, the movie has excellent pace, and wastes not a moment in getting to the point. How quickly do you find yourself rooting for the brothers and against the LAW? The movie intends to put the watcher on the spot, and make them ask themselves what counts as justice?

There is a Bible verse that speaks to this well made film— ‘the parents have eaten sour grapes, and their children’s teeth are set on edge’. There is such a thing as generational sin, sin passed from parents to children. In this film Tanner has shot his father, supposedly in a hunting accident, but really because he had been abusing his boys one way or another. The violence of the parent, replicates itself in the children. Only Toby was the good boy, who never shot anyone. We are left to wonder however, whether Toby or Tanner was really the mastermind behind the perfect crime— robbing branches of the bank that had stolen from their family in the past and threatened to steal all they had left– a piece of land with oil on it.

Instead of going to see the blockbuster remake of the Magnificent Seven, I’d advise seeing this film instead, if you like westerns and their raising of justice issues. It will make you think— or, if you are like the folks in the film, it will make you drink— Shinerbock of course.

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