Cannes Day 6: ‘Hell or High Water’ is rip-roaring West Texas crime tale

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Ben Foster and Chris Pine in 'Hell or High Water.'
Ben Foster and Chris Pine in 'Hell or High Water.'

Ben Foster and Chris Pine in ‘Hell or High Water.’

British director David Mackenzie knows how to deliver a rip-roaring crime thriller, and he  has an ear for West Texas idioms, too.

The movie stars Chris Pine as Toby, a divorced father of two boys, who has taken care of his mother before she died. He’s a good guy, but the ranch and home had to be mortgaged to cover her care, and the “kindly” bank has set a deadline to pay off the debt. But here’s the catch: Oil companies have discovered oil on the ranch, and Toby wants to make sure he can pass the land along to his kids in a trust so that they’ll escape the family’s cycle of poverty.

Enter brother Tanner (Ben Foster), who has just gotten out of prison and is ready to help. They decide to rob various branches of the bank that holds the mortgage, then give the money back to the bank by paying off the debt.

It’s sort of like Bonnie and Clyde, but it’s a brother act. And wow, is Tanner the brother. He’s a wild man, and he’s way too eager to use a gun. Toby, meanwhile, tries to keep him in check, with little success.

Naturally, the Law has to make an entrance, as the bank robberies multiply. And that’s where Texas Ranger Marcus (Jeff Bridges) comes in. He’s old and wily and near retirement, and the spree of robberies gives him a chance to have a last bit of fun.

All three actors are fantastic, but Foster and Bridges have the showiest roles. Even then, they don’t own the movie. It’s pretty much stolen by a sassy waitress at a steakhouse, who asks the visiting Rangers what “they don’t want.” Turns out you’re gonna get a T-bone medium rare, and you need to decide whether you don’t want the corn or the beans. It’s hilarious. And I don’t have the name of the actress available, but she’s quite something.

The movie is scheduled to open in late summer in Austin, probably in August. It’s worth your time.


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