Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster) are brothers. Bank robbing brothers. They have one simple method and they stick to the script, taking smallish ‘pots’ from one particular chain of Texan banks.
As the film opens they are performing one heist, and it seems they are in the midst of a spree that is quickly building in intensity.
News of a pair of serial bank robbers sets sheriff Marcus (Jeff Bridges) on the trail. Marcus is gruff, ornery and somehow endearingly racist, mostly to his Native American partner Alberto. With days until retirement he seems determined to wrap this case up in quick time so as not to leave his career with an unsolved asterisk hanging over it.
For days on end the two brothers stick to their plan with Marcus and Alberto in pursuit, seemingly simultaneously one step ahead and behind.
As the film progresses we learn more about the motives of all parties, potentially rendering a humble crime drama with more nuance than most. Like the best southern fried films of recent years (Shotgun Stories, Undertow) Hell or High Water takes a small tale and nails it.
The small cast is excellent, with a couple scene stealing minor roles fleshing things out. When the black and white hats do inevitably come face to face, it feels satisfying and earned.
Again, don’t let the small budget and meagre ambitions dupe you, this is a film well worth tracking down, and one of the better films of 2016.
Final Rating – 8 / 10. A southern fried, sun baked character study crime drama that is more than the sum of its parts.