Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Hell or High Water


Chris Pine and Ben Foster are brothers on a dirt-poor ranch somewhere in the prairie hell known as West Texas. (The picture was actually shot just across the state line in New Mexico. Same difference.) But oil has been discovered on the land, which leave them with a big problem. The bank owns a lien and they need about $40,000 to pay it off, and they have to have it by Friday or the goddam bank gets it all. So they set out to rob a series of branch offices of the bank. The planning is good, and it works well enough, except for the fact that Ben is an idiot. He has spent ten of his thirty-nine years behind bars, and it’s easy to see why. He has no impulse control at all. What is not easy to see is how he got to be thirty-nine. He should have been in the ground before he was old enough to vote.

Jeff Bridges, playing pretty much the same role as he did as Rooster Cogburn in the remake of True Grit, is the aging Texas Ranger who sets out to get the boys. He is smart, and has them figured out pretty well. He has to try and anticipate their next move, and he’s pretty good at it, but it’s a vast territory to cover.

Part of the plan is to hit the banks just as they are opening, so there’s hardly any people around. When they violate that part of the plan they learn that there is a special danger to bank robbery in Texas. At least half the patrons will be packing, and not afraid to shoot. As they are making their getaway they are pursued by a whole posse of citizens in their pickups! This is a smart, well-written and well-acted film that doesn’t go where you expect. The ending, which is usually pretty predictable in films like this, was unusual, not resolving things in a neat little package. Rather like life.