First Look: Hell or High Water
“Hell Or High Water” is a modern action drama set in West Texas where the distinction between honest men and outlaws has blurred beyond recognition. Featuring a cast that includes Academy Award®-winner Jeff Bridges (“Crazy Heart,” “True Grit”), Chris Pine (“Star Trek,” “Into The Woods”), Ben Foster (“3:10 To Yuma,” “The Messenger”) and Gil Birmingham (“The Lone Ranger,” “Twilight”), “Hell Or High Water” is produced by Sidney Kimmel, Peter Berg, Carla Hacken and Julie Yorn and executive produced by Gigi Pritzker, Bill Lischak, Michael Nathanson, Rachel Shane, John Penotti and Bruce Toll.
A story about the collision of the Old and New West, two brothers — Toby (Chris Pine), a straight-living, divorced father trying to make a better life for his son; and Tanner (Ben Foster), a short-tempered ex-con with a loose trigger finger — come together to rob branch after branch of the bank that is foreclosing on their family land. The hold-ups are part of a last-ditch scheme to take back a future that powerful forces beyond their control have stolen from under their feet. Vengeance seems to be theirs until they find themselves in the crosshairs of a relentless, foul-mouthed Texas Ranger (Jeff Bridges) looking for one last triumph on the eve of his retirement. As the brothers plot a final bank heist to complete their plan, a showdown looms at the crossroads where the last honest law man and a pair of brothers with nothing to live for except family collide.
Starring Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, Ben Foster and Gil Birmingham, Katy Mixon and Margaret Bowman
Directed by David Mackenzie (Starred Up)
Written by Taylor Sheridan (Sicario)
Distributor: CBS Films & Lionsgate
Running Time: 102 Minutes
This transcript has been lightly edited:
The Critic: Well, hello there, listeners. And, guess what? This is the Critic, introducing the Ref, who just saw a movie that’s sweeping the nation, called “Hell or High Water.”
The Referee: Oh, boy!
Critic: Yeah. This past weekend, it’s opened in a wider release. It will keep coming to more and more theaters. This is directed by David Mackenzie: I saw his “Starred Up”; he directed that. So, he has a major film, here. It is written by Taylor Sheridan —
Ref: Ooh, yeah!
Critic: Yeah — who also wrote a film we love, Ref, “Sicario” —
Ref: Yeah, I had to finally get you to see that movie. Good gracious!
Critic: Are you calling me out, while I’m trying to …?
Ref: I am! (laughter)
Critic: So, he wrote that. And, it stars Chris Pine, Ben Foster, and Jeff Bridges. Oh, my goodness! Look, I’m so excited. Please tell us — me, really, me — about this.
Ref: OK, so here’s the deal: “HELL or High Water” (laughter) is exactly what you expect. (laughs) There are some things you do, some things you go for: Hell or high water, we’re gonna to get this thing done. Now, listen, the story is about two brothers: One, who just got out of prison — Ben Foster — spent a decade in prison and for a crime that is truly — I’m surprised he only got 10 years for (laughter): He bit off a family member. So, I’ll let you watch to figure that out. However, his brother —
Critic: Wait, he bit off a family member — what?
Ref: You’ll see! You’ll see. (laughter) Chris Pine, who plays his younger brother, has been taking care of their dying mother for several months; and, of course, she finally dies. And, the farm is up for foreclosure; and they want to do all that they can to keep that farm, because something is very special about that farm. Now, folks, this all takes place in the dusty towns of Texas. The two brothers, Chris Pine and Ben Foster, decide to construct this scheme … to start robbing banks!
Critic: Of course, they do. Why not? (laughter)
Ref: They start robbing banks, and they’re robbing particular banks — I’ll just tease that — for a very particular reason.
Ref: Now, as they’re going through, robbing these particular banks across Texas, there’s a sheriff (laughs) who gets the case. And, it’s Jeff Bridges — played wonderfully, beautifully by Jeff Bridges — who is on the brink of retirement. This is his last gig.
Critic: Of course. Of course.
Ref: I know it. The FBI doesn’t want to touch it, because it’s too small potatuhs. But, it’s big enough for a sheriff. So, he and his partner, played by Alberto Parker (laughter), who you may or may not recognize from some films — he is a, uh — how do I say this? — they say it in the movie: He’s a half-breed.
Critic: Oh, no!
Ref: He is half-Mexican and half-Native American, and, boy, does Jeff Bridges give it to him. I mean, they have the wonderful banter together and a real, true love for one another. Now, what happens is: This is a cowboy-and, I’ll say the word, -Indian movie, so to speak.
Critic: Yeah. Mm-hm.
Ref: It’s the good guys vs. the bad guys. And, the whole movie is following these two brothers across Texas to see if they can catch them, especially because they do one last robbery. It may or may not go wrong or right.
Both: Mm. Mm.
Ref: By the end of it, there is some interesting catharsis. I’ll say that much. So, that’s the gist of the plot. There are a lot of twists and turns that I kinda left off. But, I do want to say this: “Hell or High Water” is really what would happen if you tried to film a modern-day, 2016 cowboy movie. Yes.
Ref: With technology and all that it has, but also with the bones and structures of a good old western. I’m talkin’ about a shootout. Yes. I’m talkin’ about somebody gets a girl. Yes. (laughter) I’m talkin’ about fightin’ for your family. Yes. I’m talkin’ about robbin’ and stealin’. Yes. I’m talkin’ about (laughing) Native Americans. Yes.
Ref: Mexicans. Yes. Everything is yes. This is a modern-day cowboy movie. Now, we’ve seen other movies, such as “The Duel,” “In [a] Valley of Violence,” even “The Dressmaker,” all of them trying to give us a taste of good-old John Wayne. Well, I’ll tell you what: “Hell or High Water” is the ticket for this summer. Performances, very briefly: Jeff Bridges does Jeff Bridges; it’s amazing. Ben Foster plays the crazy, loose-cannon brother. You don’t know what he’s going to do; he’s going to get the job done by any means possible. I’ll say that. And, Chris Pine gives a surprise performance that’s very pulled-back and, also, intriguing, because he’s the brother with the brains! (laughter) But, he’s also the brother with the most to lose —
Ref: Because, he’s doing all of this for his two boys, whom he hasn’t seen in a year. So, the stakes are pretty high. Now, to the writing: This is Taylor … Sheridan. The beginning of the movie is a slow burn! It is setting it up: You’re getting the relationships; you’re getting the stakes; you’re getting all the jokes. I mean, it just totally sets you up for a — (clap) BOOM! — impactful, climactic, shootout, get-it-all-out-there scene. And, then, he winds back down and leaves you with a question. That is his writing pattern. It was his writing pattern for “Sicario.” It is his writing pattern for “Hell or High Water.” And, I say this: I trust you, now, Taylor. I’m eager to see what else you have in store —
Ref: — because this is a pretty good script. Again, I’m going back to what you said, Critic: Westerns — if you’re gonna do a shootout, if you’re gonna have westerns, if you’re gonna have like that manly kind of manly movie —
Ref: Why are we talking? Why are we doing all this talking? I tell you what: They’re gonna put their actions behind their words. So, if you wanna check out “Hell or High Water” in a theater, I suggest you do it. It’s wonderful. But, if you’ve got a choice between two or three movies that you’re juggling around, paying $15-$16 for, this is also an extremely enjoyable movie if you decide to watch it at home. But, the question is: Do you really want to wait that long?
Critic: Oh, my goodness! That is so much for me to think about and for us to digest. (laughing) I don’t even know.
Ref: Did you say digest? (laughs)
Critic: Yes: to digest!
Ref: And, of course, let me tell ya, you may just want to go to the movies to see this cameo: You don’t know who she is; her name is Margaret Bowman, but she plays the T-Bone waitress. (laughter) And, when I tell you [that] you will avoid that restaurant at all costs ‘cause she’s going to make a decision for you, you will do it! You will avoid Texas (laughter) for the (laughing) T-Bone waitress. It is worth the watch for Margaret!
Critic: I’m done after that! (laughs) Look, everybody: Please, again, this is probably out already at a theater near you, or it’s coming soon. … I’ll see you in the theater! That’s what I’ll say.
Critic: I’ll see all y’all in the theater. (laughs)