-JJ-

What new movies have you seen?

122 posts in this topic

"I've been poor my whole life..It's like a disease passing from generation to generation. [It] becomes a sickness not for my boys; not anymore." 

 

"Like your steak?...You take your time...What do you do? [My] last job was working for an oil & gas company. Sounds top dollar...We could use a short order cook. Just a thought...Who said handsome? They pay cash? That a crime now? How much did he leave you? $200. That's my tip to pay for the mortgage & keep a roof over my daughter's head." 

 

"In a year's time, it's my teasing you're gonna miss. It's what you'll laugh about and wish me well for when I'm gone. God, I hope that's tomorrow. Hey, that was a good one [partner]. 

 

"Hands on the counter where I can see 'em. You gotta a gun on you old man? You darn right I do. Are you gonna get his gun [brother]?" 

 

Jeff Bridges is one of my favorite actors because he so authentic in whatever role he inhabits on the big screen & this time in this modern day Lone Star State western called "H*ll Or Highwater" directed by David Mackenzie we see 2 central cat & mouse characters trapped or cornered. One by money problems & the other petrified by the prospect of retirement as the long arm of the law in a Texas town. I like films where both the protagonist & antagonist feel boxed in by circumstances because it makes this 1 hour 42 minute manhunt more compelling in scope.

 

This isn't a western in the conventional sense with horses perse, but we do have Texas Rangers & armed robbers desperately trying to save the family farm from foreclosure courtesy of the Texas Midlands Bank. This bank devised a shady scheme in which a $43,000 dollar lean was placed against farm land just so devious bankers could acquire land dirt cheap that they knew contained a treasure trove of oil beneath ground on it. That's why I am calling this action adventure thriller a contemporary western because westerns are all about a fight over natural resources. Oil in this case & a stand with guns to protect hard working people already swindled by corporate bloodsucking banks robbing blue collar folks of their property rights. So therefore, what better way to assert your liberty, freedom, & independence then by taking the bank's money branch by branch by gunpoint in order to remove the lean, put wells on the property, & place all the revenue generated from this oil enterprise in the same bank that originally ripped their family off? It's kind of genius when you think about it. No bank would ever raise any eyebrows with the police about how the 40K was paid off in short order as long as their financial institution gets to claim their lucrative account on their annual books. See what I mean? Smart. 

 

The opening shot zooms in on this white, brick wall adjacent to the Texas Midlands Bank. The following words are written in black on the surface: "3 tours in Iraq, but no bailout for people like us." Right away, the audience knows this flick is a class warfare picture dealing primarily with the redistribution of wealth by coercion. A blue Camaro pulls in behind the bank. 2 brothers Tanner [Ben Foster] & Toby [Chris Pine] wait for the first employee to show up, unlock the door, & get access to the cash in the drawers. While both of them were smart enough to wear black ski masks & blue plastic gloves, their first robbery had a major glitch. All the money is kept in the vault & only the boss Mr. Clawson can unlock the main vault every morning & he hasn't arrived yet. When Mr. Clawson [William Sterchi] does walk inside the bank, Tanner strikes him hard across the face with his gun. Whoa dude, take it easy. No need for unnecessary violence man. Tanner enjoys inflicting pain too much & maybe he's still harboring some bitterness about being incarcerated for over a yr. He's a natural aggressor who always has to flaunt his superiority, sexuality, & savviness in hectic situations. A dangerous & deadly combination if you ask me. Toby, on the other hand, is shy, quiet, a critical thinker/mastermind, & just doing his best to provide for his ex-wife Elsie [Dale Dickey] & 2 sons even if that requires a criminal act or 2. Toby knows if he can pay the lean on the family farm off in full & start extracting oil on this land his kin & legacy will be financially set for the rest of their lives. 

 

The man tasked with foiling these bank robbers is a middle aged man named Marcus Hamilton [Jeff Bridges]. Marcus is a seasoned lawman around 60 who dreads the idea of boredom when he retires. Marcus lives for outsmarting criminals he goes after. It gives him an intense rush of adrenaline. While Marcus does have 2 favorite hobbies--Fishing & harassing his Native American, Mexican heritage partner Alberto Parker [Gil Birmingham] with Indian stereotypes. What do I mean? Stuff like this...'Indians aren't supposed to feel sorry for Cowboys. It's the other way around.' My old college roommate Al, an Oneida Indian & me a undergraduate disabled student, used to joke about the other one's top stereotypes in school in a comfort free zone. I'd say stuff like "The white man almost neutralized tribes with fire water, smallpox, & treaties not worth the paper they were written on but you got the last laugh with casinos right?" To with Al would reply, "People with disabilities know nothing. Well, unless you count Stephen Hawking who revolutionized Physics with his groundbreaking Black hole theory. Can we go to the movies now? I wanna park in the disability spot at the front since that's the only reason we're friends right?" LOL! 

 

The funny thing about Marcus is that he pretends to insult his Indian heritage a lot, but when Alberto gets shot by Tanner using a snipper rifle near the end of this picture, he is bound & determined to avenge his sidekick amigo if it's the last thing he ever does. That's real love & admiration right there in male circles. Taking out the guy with a bullet who stole their best buddy away far too soon. It's the ultimate man code. You cut my friend down. I cut you down. 

 

I want to focus considerable attention now on one minor scene that's quite powerful. Tobey is sitting alone in a booth inside a small greasy spoon. His brother Tanner decided on a whim to rob the bank across the street without telling him. In the meantime, a waitress named Jenny Ann [Katy Mixon] walks up to Toby's table & starts a small talk conversation with him. She's got brown hair, brown eyes, wearing a mint green uniform with a white apron. We know she thinks Toby is a good looking man & that she is flirting with him. We also can see that Jenny Ann feels self conscious about the way her life turned out & whether a man as attractive as him would even give her a 2nd look. She tells him that the restaurant has a vacancy for a cook. Toby is real sweet about the offer & we get the sense if he wasn't on the run right now he'd definitely take her up on the offer & probably date her too. Instead, he leaves Jenny Ann a wad of cash for her hospitality. I like subdued, brief scenes in movies that reveal a ton of information in less than 2 minutes. Most reviewers would gloss over scenes like this. Not me because that's real life. Even avoiding the law, you can have regrets about relationships that were never allowed to develop & flourish. Tobey's not a flousy centered guy like his ladies man, dare devil brother. He is polite, respectful, sincere, & kind. Tobey just needed Tanner to orchestrate the bank robberies because he's not a mean spirited person who can intimidate any room he steps into. 

 

What makes this picture work are the ironclad bonds. Brothers complain about getting Mr. Pip instead of Dr. Pepper, taking the other one's cowboy hat without permission & damaging the hat, but when one of them is in real trouble the other one will put their life in jeopardy in order to protect their sibling. This includes a gas station altercation, Tanner inspecting Toby's body after he'd been shot in their last robbery to ensure that the bullet went clean through; Tanner getting the Texas Rangers to chase after him while his baby brother gets the money to the bank before it closes; & Tanner distracting Marcus & his partner Alberto long enough so that his sibling can have a life on easy street by the time the credits roll. In addition, I also liked the bond between Marcus & Alberto. Marcus is always comically jabbing at his sidekick's heritage, but once Alberto is killed. Marcus is hades bent on retribution & redemption for his best friend on a mountain revene at least 2 miles away. You watch a sequence like this when a partner is killed & I kept saying to myself death notifications to spouses & loved ones are the worst & they never get any easier no matter how many times a lawman has done it. 

 

4 people died during these bank robberies to get the family farm back. Tobey lost his older brother & Texas Ranger Marcus lost his colleague & partner. In a peculiar way, both the Ranger & surviving armed robber admire each other's I.Q. & intellect. They even chat on the porch at the farm fully aware of how both men are tortured souls trapped into violent outcomes & losing someone significant & dear to both of them. Toby doesn't go to prison & Marcus now has somebody of equal intelligence to chat frequently with & not feel so anxious about being a retired civilian now. Let's roll with a B+ on "H*ll Or High-water." This film was very good with it's western motif of fighting for your family's honor, fighting for property & oil rights, fighting against poverty & for fiscal prosperity; & for sacrifice in the line of duty. 

 

 

"When you put down the money is the blood worth all the pain; When you can't see the sunshine for the rain." 

 

I must give our very own CC1 credit for making me familiar with country singer Cody Jinks. Thank you. 

 

 

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