Mind if I take a moment to gush over the unimpeachable film legend that is Jeff Bridges?
The presence and impact Bridges has had on the silver screen over the past half-century cannot be understated. By age 25, he had a host of brilliant pictures and performances - not to mention two Oscar nominations - under his belt with the likes of The Last Picture Show, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot and Fat City. Bridges has charmed our pants off in films like Against All Odds, The Fabulous Baker Boys and The Mirror Has Two Faces; moved us to tears in Starman and Fearless; stood out in ensemble pieces like Heaven's Gate and Seabiscuit; and greatly lifted otherwise lukewarm pictures such as Tucker: The Man and His Dreams and his Oscar-winning Crazy Heart.
What Bridges pulls off in David Mackenzie's Hell or High Water seems both effortless and just about impossible for anyone else to have topped. He's pitch-perfect as Marcus Hamilton, a Texas ranger on the brink of retirement who, alongside partner Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham, a terrific straight man to Bridges' one-liner-machine), is on the trail of bank-robbing brothers Toby and Tanner Howard (Chris Pine and Ben Foster).
The Howard brothers are embarking on this series of heists throughout West Texas in order to save the family farm from foreclosure, following the death of their mother. While Toby also wants to utilize the funds to provide a better life for his estranged ex-wife and children, Tanner, fresh out of prison, is an all-around loose cannon, ready for action against anyone who dares to stand in their way. Badass Marcus, of course, is down for any challenge.
Written by Sicario scribe Taylor Sheridan, Hell or High Water is largely a bit of a slow burn, always engaging though never quite an exhilarating ride. There are, however, a handful of moments of great tension and even more moments of welcome humor. Character actors like Dale Dickey, Katy Mixon and especially Margaret Bowden walk away with their scenes.
And then there's Bridges and Foster, both flat-out fantastic in their roles. Foster, who richly deserved an Oscar nomination a number of years back for The Messenger, never ceases to amaze. As for Pine, he's merely serviceable in the role of the nicer, better-groomed Howard brother. He does have a Montgomery Clift-like matinee idol quality to him, except Clift was never this passive or uninteresting.
Hell or High Water is well above-average for an August film release.