R. What did you expect?
DIRECTOR: David Mackenzie
I think the Oscars always choose a padding movie. This is where I'm going to get some enemies because people are going to swear by these movies as being the best of the list. I'm talking about movies that need to round out the competition a little bit more. People have been griping about the change from five Best Picture nominees to ten for this very reason. These are movies like Brooklyn or Nebraska that really have no shot at getting the Best Picture win. P.S. I know that someone's going to get up in arms about Brooklyn, but the movie isn't Best Picture great. These are movies that are perfectly fine in their own right, but kind of feel like we are giving out participation awards.
There's nothing special about Hell or High Water. Had I just watched this movie on a whim, I might be far more favorable towards it. But for a chap of whimsy like me, I'd like to still pretend that the Oscars have some magic behind them. These should be movies that awaken me to the beauty of cinema. This is all hypocritical hogwash -I'm aware -considering that I just talked about the complete cultural blindness that Oscar winners have shown in the past. But I watch the Oscars because I love movies and Hell or High Water isn't the movie that screams "I love cinema." It is a typical film of its genre and setting. Chris Pine and Ben Foster play bank robbers who have a semi-clever plan and execute this plan as a strange form of social justice. Their plan doesn't have the Robin Hood level of chivalry which would make us root for the characters, but it does take a little bit of the edge off of their selfishness. I do applaud the movie for addressing that these two guys aren't heroes, but this is also the type of film that asks "Are there such things as heroes?" This isn't new ground. I have addressed this issues before with far superior movies. Perhaps the movie took a harder or softer left or right than other movies like No Country for Old Men or There Will Be Blood, but these choices aren't necessarily the right choices to make. This movie is about treading water or walking the well worn path or mixing the metaphors.
Mackenzie really is more of a master of the scene as opposed to the whole. There are moments in this movie that draw attention and for those scenes alone, he should be applauded. Let me be clear: the scenes themselves are well done. This is where the problem lies. These scenes, sometimes, have no place in this movie. I'm going to pick the scene that stood out in my head the most, the steak dive bar. The scene is rife with charm. I emotionally connected in a real "Aw, shucks" way. But it provided nothing to the story. The emotional connection between Marcus Hamilton and Alberto Parker had already been established. We get the connection that they are reluctant friends and partners. This scene, while extremely well done, almost completely kills what little tension that the movie is building to. I agree that the movie can use some laughs, but this felt so shoehorned in that I can't help but imagine that Mackenzie loved the concept so much, he fit it into a movie that didn't need it. These scenes, and I can think of half a dozen of them, could be excused as character development. But I don't think the movie needed to include them. The movie is all about the relationships between these two sets of men and to shoehorn these scenes in kills the pacing of the movie.
It is odd to be bored in a movie with a semi-automatic shootout. Again, I hate when "boring" is used as a way to criticize a movie because boring in itself shouldn't be a bad thing. But this movie has the guts to really engage an audience, but its attempts at vulnerability are superficial. Pine and Foster do a great job. I love these two actors and I love them playing off of each other. Bridges and Birmingham, same deal. It's just that the moral crisis is simply played as a depressed ennui. There's something going on here. I'm teaching Crime and Punishment right now and there is so much that goes into a good man committing evil deeds. Toby Howard, while he is told that he will be haunted by his choices, doesn't seem to have that conflict inside of him before he starts. He is reluctant simply because there are too many wild cards in his plan. Pine portrays him with sadness and anger phenomenally, but maybe that's not what is called for in these moments. The Howard brothers are so confident in their plan that there isn't a moment of panic. In a fight-or-flight scenario, the characters naturally gravitate towards fight. Yes, they do run away at times, but they keep their cools while doing so. How much more powerful would these scenes have been had the characters become obsessed with the fact that they had turned into the villains of their own narratives. Instead, Ben Foster embraces it and loves the evil he has created. Mackenzie kind of drops the ball here and fails to show the absolute hopelessness of his actions. Allowing him to relish the murders he commits is a lost opportunity. Foster's suicide run never allows for hope, despite his successes. If there is one thing I hate, it's lost opportunity.
I kinda crapped all over this movie. It isn't horrible. I'll even go as far as to say I enjoyed it. It's just that this movie has critical praise and I can't say that. It is a movie about some bank robbers and they are jerks. 'Nuff said.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.