Right off the back of playing a lead iconic character for the third time, in the rebooted trilogy of one of the biggest and most influential shows in pop culture, Chris Pine now stars in Hell or High Water, a small independent film set in Texas, trading in his stun gun for a pistol.
In Hell or High Water, Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner Howard (Ben Foster) are brothers in arms who we meet balaclava-clad in a small and at some points slapstick bank robbery. They have a plan, this bank being the very least they rob, and they are clever. That doesn’t stop Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) sniffing at their trail with partner Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham) in tow. What ensues is a familiar cat and mouse chase as the brothers tick the banks off their list and the cops follow less than swiftly, playing it like a leisurely pursuit, rather than a race to catch some criminals.
While Toby and Tanner’s motives aren’t so clearly defined straight away, time and attention is given to Bridge’s character, exploring his attitude toward his job, his retirement, and his friendship with Alberto. Bridges is blessed with a lot of the humour throughout, which is received well in the first act, however, his insistent racist jokes toward his Comanche and Mexican-descended partner start to become clumsy and embarrassing with no real depth to them other than to paint a picture of a less than politically-correct generation.
Nevertheless, there’s so much potential in this friendship for some heart-warming scenes but unfortunately, the film never seems to quite find its way there. The same goes for the brothers. There’s clearly a lot of love and history between these two men, yet it’s not explored enough and the actions played out don’t get the emotional payoff they could deserve.
Although Hell or High Water at its surface is about bank robberies, the pace is slow and rumbling, much like the dirt tracks and highways our characters spend a lot of the runtime traveling on. So while not melodramatic in its relationships, all actors play their characters with nuance, subtlety, and realism. For this, perhaps the lack of emotion-prodding can be excused.
It’s not so obvious sometimes when this film is set, with a lack of smart technology being the usual clear indication. This is the first layer of the film we encounter that reminds us not everywhere operates like London, New York, or other major global cities. The regular shots of debt and credit adverts subliminally tell us this is very much a serious problem in areas like Texas. This is the motivation for the brothers and is a running talking point throughout the film touching on questions such as how small towns still survive and the roles the banks play in these places.
The locations gloriously accompanied by sepia-toned cinematography and twangs of southern music make for a beautiful ambiance for both pairings of men, painting a beautiful story that while not gut-punchingly thrilling or sob-inducing emotional, still leaves an impact and plenty of re-watch ability.
Hell or High Water is out in cinemas September 9