Sky and dirt. Heaven and earth. You see lots of both in the new movie Hell or High Water. If you've ever driven past mesquite trees and pump jacks, kicking up dust behind you on an isolated dirt road with endless sky above and vast, open space all around then you understand the setting of the movie. it's gritty; it's also starkly beautiful. It's West Texas, the place I call home.
In addition to sky and dirt, there's lots of shooting, driving, mumbling, joking, and drinking in the movie. The mumbling got on my last nerve. Marcus Hamilton, a Texas Ranger close to retirement, is played by the awesome Jeff Bridges. I liked the character, but Bridges speaks as if he has a chaw of tobacco in his mouth the entire time and maybe he did. I'm not lying when I say I couldn't understand half of what he said.
It's ironic that Jeff Bridges is in this movie because he was also in another, far superior, movie that featured iconic Texas scenery. That movie was The Last Picture Show and I think it's a masterpiece. Both movies feature small towns that look bleak, almost uninhabited, definitely not inviting, and dying on the vine. Is that an accurate picture of West Texas? Maybe it is, but I'd like to think not.
The Last Picture Show is a character study. Hell or High Water ain't that. It's full of action and that's great, but there were at least a couple of scenes that fell just short of the mark in helping me understand the motivations of the characters. It was good, but I wanted it to be great.
The story about two brothers, who are bank robbers, is pretty clever, and for the most part not too predictable. A lot of the dialogue is funny, but it struck me that most people, in real life, don't talk the way the people in the movie talked to each other. The funniest scene involved a couple of Texas Rangers trying to order something to eat in a classic, small town diner from a sassy, tired waitress who ain't playin'. That scene by itself was worth the price of admission. It reminded me of the diner scene in Five Easy Pieces, except the filmmakers for Hell or High Water turned it around and made the waitress the star of the scene.
No matter how hard the younger brother, played by the gorgeous Chris Pine, cautions against it, there's violence in Hell or High Water. After watching the movie you will think that every person in this part of the world is packing heat. Is that an accurate picture of West Texas? Maybe it is, but I'd like to think not. Depending on which side of the gun control debate you come down on, you are either going to like the final bank robbery scene or be appalled by it.
The most violently graphic scene, ironically, involves not one single gunshot. It's a scene that happens in front of a convenience store. You'll know it when you see it, and you'll understand what I'm talking about. I found it to be very satisfying and that scares me a little. Is that really the kind of person I am? Maybe it is, but I'd like to think not.
The soundtrack was really good. I enjoy it when the music fits the mood perfectly. What I didn't enjoy was the lady sitting behind me making noise when she'd dig her hand into a huge box of popcorn every 4.9 seconds. I wanted to stand up, turn around, and snatch the damn box of popcorn out of her grubby hands, but that's not the kind of person I am, or is it?