Casting Review: Hell or High Water

Screen Shot 2016-09-22 at 4.51.58 PMThe rough-and-tough brotherly love drama Hell or High Water, starring Ben Foster and Chris Pine, has certainly gotten some flack from the media about its racist slurs and gun-toting Texan Pride. However for the avid movie lover who appreciates real, raw movie making, there will be an ability to see beyond that. There is gut-wrenching intensity to this story as two brothers form a pack to get even with the big guys (corporate banks) and stick together through hell or high water- if you will- to see the plan through. With it’s stellar cinematography and long, dusty shots of a sparse Texas wasteland, this film is profound in it’s grittiness and sincerity.

Brothers Toby (Chris Pine: Star Trek Beyond, The Finest Hours) and Tanner Howard (Ben Foster: 3:10 to Yuma, Lone Survivor), come to find the bank is trying to take their mother’s ranch conveniently just as oil was discovered on the land. Born into a mess of poverty and despair, Toby wants more for his kids and knows the only way to do that is to get the ranch that he inherited back from the greedy paws of Texas Midland Bank. The brothers come to the conclusion that the only way to get the tens of thousands of dollars the bank is demanding is to actually rob small branches of the bank themselves. They straddle the line of justice and the law as they attempt to steal back from the people who are trying to take what is rightfully theirs. The  opening shot of the film sets us up for the world in which the brothers reside, a dying small town with graffiti painted on the side of a bank that reads “3 tours in Iraq but no bailout for people like us.” Then the action hits as Toby and Tanner pull down their masks and race towards the bank, guns high in the air, on fire with purpose. After a couple holdups word gets out to ranger Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges), who disregards his upcoming retirement date for one last call of duty.

Ben Foster plays a loose canon as Tanner, with properly placed humor and a handful of truly tender moments. Foster is known for his dramatic and sinister roles, yet this one seems to directly stand out from all the rest, mainly because it looks like he’s having too much damn fun. Tanner has been in and out of prison for numerous run-ins with the law, so this little plan is nothing new to him, but we get a sense that this one is different as he is going to bat for his little brother. Foster shines with his subtle nuances and proves him to be a profoundly versatile actor. If he doesn’t get astounding notoriety for this performance during awards season I will be utterly shocked. He says this in response to giving advice to other actors:

“Give yourself permission to be terrible and celebrate that ’cause it’s really about moving through a room in the darkness, and you’re bumping into furniture. It’s okay to fail ’cause there’s no failure, you’re just informing the richness of your experience, and that’s- that’s the greatest gift you can possibly give yourself. Be terrible, because you’re gonna find something gorgeous and stunning that will sustain you for the rest of your life.”

Chris Pine has come a long way since The Princess Diaries, and his role as Toby is by far his best yet. No longer is he hiding behind the superstar image as in the exhausted Star Trek films…you really get to see him in a relaxed state of being a down-on-his-luck Texan fighting to keep his family’s well-being afloat. You’re able to look past his marvelous good looks and sparkling blue eyes and see a man determined to succeed. His courage is believable every step of the way and I’m ready to see what kind of roles he accepts next.

The always lovable Jeff Bridges gives us a lot of laughs as Ranger Hamilton. On the brink of retirement he doesn’t know how to give up what he’s done most of his life. We get a glimpse of his desperation, holding on to this chase to find the robbers as his one last shot at carrying out his purpose of bringing justice to the world. Bridges gives props to the writer Taylor Sheridan (Sicario) for basing the character on his uncle, a U.S. marshall from Texas, on which he had a significant amount of information about. He’s no stranger to the western movie world, acting in Rancho Deluxe (1975) and Wild Bill (1995), among others. It was also on the same wavelength and style as Crazy Heart, which was my personal favorite of his.

British director David Mackenzie, who wrote prison drama Starred Up, give us the quintessential heist movie webbed with humor and suspense. If this doesn’t take home at least a couple golden boys this season I will be sorely disappointed.

 

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Jess

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