or High Water
a bit of a stretch to call it a “Western,” because most of the time
that term is used when a movie takes place during the late 19th
century, when there were only horses for conveyance.
Are they still cowboys if they drive beat-up cars, as long as they
have cattle on their property?
brothers, Tanner Howard (Ben Foster) and Toby Howard (Chris Pine, famous
for being the latest Captain Kirk in the “Star Trek” series) decide to
go on a bank robbing spree. For
Tanner, who just got out of prison, the whole thing is a lark.
He loves seeing people’s reaction when he shoves a gun in their
face, and he enjoys the thrill of taking something that isn’t his.
He’s an ex-con who has already spent 10 years in prison, but even
if gets caught, he doesn’t intend to go back.
We viewers slowly realize that he intends to go out “death by
cop,” though his younger brother Toby is slow to catch on.
Toby just doesn’t seem to fit the mold of a bank robber, anyway.
He doesn’t really want to do anyone any violence (promising
himself that since that’s not his intent, it’s not going to happen).
Broke and divorced (which could describe a lot of single Dads out
there), he feels that his sons have not only been taken away from him, but
their mother has managed to keep them estranged from him, as well. (And
yes, a lot of divorced Dads complain about that, as well.)
Toby’s spent the last several years caring for his ailing Mom,
who owns a hardscrabble piece of land that the bank talked her into
mortgaging, and now the vultures are circling with tax liens.
Toby asks Tanner for help, and Tanner is only too happy to oblige.
He’s smart enough to know that if you stick to small-town banks,
and the loose bills that are in the cash drawers, then they won’t draw
much attention, and won’t have marked bills in their possession.
And Tanner’s right about this.
But he didn’t count on a very persistent Texas Ranger, Marcus
Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) who’s very near retirement, but is not at all
ready to coast into the dock.
Marcus has a partner, Alberto (Gil Birmingham), whom he’s
constantly bantering with---they continuously trade insults, and may
secretly have some affection for each other behind all the bravado.
Same with the brothers, but they also argue constantly, and their
decisions are not made smoothly. But
ironically, this makes them less predictable, as well, and harder to
This movie has a great sense of humor, but it’s in a context of
the quiet desperation of rural America, where businesses are closing down
or struggling mightily not to, and where the local economy continues to
spiral downward for lack of economic development.
But, as we viewers discover, small-town people can be crusty.
And they don’t appreciate being patronized or regarded as
Can we root for the banditos? Well,
if so, it won’t be the first time. It’s
just that we almost hope that Scotty can beam up Captain Kirk before
it’s too late.