DVD Review: Hell Or High Water

By , Contributor
Urban Western Hell Or High Water is, quite honestly, a high watermark for movies in 2016 so far. Director David Mackenzie (Young Adam) sees his stock rise with this gloriously lived-in outlaw drama starring Chris Pine and Ben Foster as bank-robbing brothers and Jeff Bridges as the Texas Ranger out to stop them. Now on DVD (also Blu-ray) via Lionsgate, now's the time to catch up with this sleeper hit if you missed it in theaters over the summer. It's a tense thriller that puts its characters first and foremost.

Toby (Pine) and his hothead brother Tanner (Foster) are, in fact, rebels with a cause. They're not robbing banks just for the hedonistic thrill. Well, maybe the unbalanced Tanner is—but Toby has a higher purpose. That's the central twist at the core of Taylor Sheridan's (Sicario) screenplay and it would be dirty pool to spell it all out here. Suffice it to say that, while their methods quickly spiral out of hand, Howard brothers are trying to stand up to a system they feel ripped them off. In an era dominated by foreclosed homes following the collapse of the housing industry in recent years, many viewers will find plenty to commiserate with here. 
hell or high water gil birmingham.jpg Pine and especially Foster are sensational as the bandit brothers whose plan to score much-needed money quickly goes south. Bridges could probably play this role in his sleep. His near-retirement Ranger Hamilton nonetheless represents another feather in the great actor's cap. Bridges slyly conveys Hamilton's old-fashioned yet sure-handed instincts as he manages to predict the Howard brothers' moves. Not to be forgotten is the equally superb work by Gil Birmingham as Hamilton's Ranger partner Alberto Parker. Parker is of Native American descent and provides a particularly personal outlook on the socio-economic situation in the downtrodden Texas region in which the action unfolds. He gets constantly ribbed by Hamilton with decidedly un-P.C. jokes, but there's a deep bond between these two that makes them spiritual brothers. Their partnership (and friendship) is every bit as vital to Hell as the bond between Toby and Tanner. 
hell or high water jeff bridges.jpg Lionsgate's special features include three solid featurettes: "Damaged Heroes" (12 minutes) focuses on the acting, "Visualizing the Heart of America" (nine minutes) looks at the film's sun-baked shooting locations, and "Enemies Forever" (13 minutes) is a good behind-the-scenes peek. Also worth watching is the half-hour "Filmmaker Q&A" which features director Mackenzie on a discussion panel with actors Pine, Bridges, and Birmingham.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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