Hell or High Water (2016)

A criminal and a Texas Ranger meet after the dust has settled, oil derricks dipping in the background, and discuss the end of their lives. Hell or High Water has one of the best denouements in film this year—and maybe ever. Ambiguity can be a movie’s worse enemy or best friend. This final scene works so well because the uncertainty of how the plot finishes is irrelevant. Either case would fit with the film’s themes, as does the variable of not knowing either way.

The best of this movie—like many movies—is in the performances. Bridges lives up to his legend status. Foster delivers, as usual, playing the devil on the shoulder of the lead performer(s). And as an overtired and overworked small town waitress, Mixon crackles in two scenes. Pine has gone underrated and underappreciated.  Without the outsized charisma, the gloss, and blue lens flares of Captain Kirk he confirms his true talent and becomes this real human being down on his luck—even if ostensibly too handsome to be the victim of such a scenario.

This was a summer movie and it feels like summer—hot, sweaty, and grimy. It attempts to look and feel like the many West Texas-set stories put to film in this century, and mostly succeeds in this. It’s a small story about two sets of brothers who took different paths and ended up in the same place. Life can be fickle that way—you tried to do things the right way and still you end up drinking, watching TV at a casino bar, waiting to cash in your chips.

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