‘Hell or High Water’ Brings Back the Western

‘Hell or High Water’ trades in cowboys and horses for a hero’s journey into companionship, brotherhood and supporting the people that you love.

‘Hell or High Water’ reminds audiences that the Western genre can be modernized, for better or for worse.

hell or high water
Photo courtesy of Steven Zang.

Can you really place a limit on love? Keep in mind, such companionship comes in many disguises. And for director David Mackenzie’s newest Western venture, Hell or High Water, these boundaries are tested time and time again, between brothers with a crooked agenda, a father who wants a sense of solidarity for his children’s future and a retired sheriff’s resistance with loneliness.

It’s in this vast setting that we meet brothers Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster). While Toby is new to the game of armed robbery, Tanner reveals to have done it multiple times before—and even get caught in the process. Hence, Toby and his jailbird brother tiptoe around Texas in search for the register money of smaller bank chains, essentially “pocket change.” This draws the attention of senior sheriff Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges), who wants nothing more than to stretch out his time on the force with fellow cop Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham). However, as Toby’s incentives become openly personal, Hell or High Water hits a high note and holds it all the way to the closing credits.

This Western drama is structured on a sense of suspenseful simplicity; as the story is built around a classic cop-and-robber archetype (which, alone, is reminiscent of the genre in-question), Hell or High Water grabs its audience’s interest by adding in parallel story arcs that create an element of thrill. Not to mention, such interjecting obstacles would not be possible without the electric performances of the casting bill, from Ben Foster’s “ticking time-bomb” persona to the heart-wrenchingly honest performance from critically-acclaimed actor Jeff Bridges. Furthermore, if the hero’s journey isn’t necessarily doing it for you, do not fret: the cinematography is enough of an eye-glancer, constantly moving with the story and creating a stunning portrait of how these dynamic characters pop out of the flat lands that engulf them.

“It’s truly the best modern Western I’ve seen since No Country for Old Men,” said Dale Owens, a Cherry Hill native and long-time film fanatic. “Hell or High Water has great storytelling, and it held my interest from beginning to end.”

And that’s why I found myself surprised by Hell or High Water. David Mackenize creates a sub-section of the American Southwest that feels fresh and unique, at least for 106 minutes of our valuable time. And even though the film is questionably a “Western,” it makes it out alive by placing narrative over genre. This fact might appear all too elementary, but it sure makes all the difference.

Hell or High Water is now playing in movie theaters worldwide. Some local venues include Allwood Cinemas in Clifton, AMC Loews Wayne 14 and even Bow Tie Clairidge Cinema in the heart of downtown Montclair! For a list of even more theaters and show-times, visit fandango.com today.

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