Hell or High Water

This modern-day Western, about two bank-robbing brothers in West Texas, may be all cliché at its heart: you've got the unpredictable ne'er-do-well (Ben Foster), the handsome divorcé trying to do right by his family (Chris Pine), and the grizzled old Texas Ranger, on the very brink of retirement, who doggedly pursues them (Jeff Bridges). Yet Hell or High Water works wonderfully.

It starts with Taylor Sheridan's script, rich in timeliness, good humor, and genuine affection for his characters. (Sheridan, who also penned Sicario, has a real flair for depicting Southwest lawmen. He did play a sheriff's deputy on Sons of Anarchy for three years, so there is that.) Under the capable direction of Britain's David Mackenzie, who shouldn't be as comfortable with a Texas-set story as he is, the whole cast rises to the occasion. For what is ostensibly a crime thriller, this is really more of a "hangout movie", as lackadaisical as a dusty West Texas afternoon. It's certainly not boring, however, with a third act that brings all the players together in an inevitably violent showdown. But for the most part, character and atmosphere come first. It is, above all, a thoughtful film.

There are plot holes here and there, and I was never fully convinced of Foster's character's motivations, but it didn't bother me. The scenery (New Mexico stands in for Texas), the soundtrack (score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, complemented by some fine old outlaw country tunes), and especially Bridges all make Hell or High Water very much worth seeing. I'd certainly pay to see it again.