Hell or High Water (2016) Review

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See you in High Water

(Editors Note): I revisited Hell or High Water and honestly, I liked it better on the second viewing. Hence my kicking the score up from a 7 to an 8. I was more impressed by Ben Foster’s performance this time around and everything tied up in a bow ending didn’t bother me nearly as much. In fact, I did not know I had objected to it until rereading my review.

Great film with top-notch acting and atmosphere. Notes from the second viewing are that the script is a bit heavy-handed on its anti-bank rant (Though I am certainly sympathetic with such a rant) and Jeff Bridges sometimes does this thing with his jaw that makes him look like he is doing Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone in The Godfather.

The Original Review

Hell or High Water (2016): 8 out of 10: Hell or High Water is a very good film overall and is worth a watch. I wanted to get that out of the way because I have a serious complaint about this film.

Hell or High Water spends most of its time in a realistic place. It paints a picture of two brothers who have a realistic life with believable relationships, both with each other and the world around them. It also paints a scenario that, while not without some minor plot holes, gives a purpose behind the bank robbing and other shenanigans. 

Hell and High Water is also a fable. Not quite of the magic realism kind that one easily could have seen this film drift into, but of the wish fulfillment kind. The kind one would expect in a children’s adventure. The kind of adventure one would find in, say, The Goonies. 

Now perhaps The Goonies ending worked for well for The Goonies (this is debatable) but it doesn’t strike true in a film that seems more grounded in reality. Upon reflection, one could imagine that the writer or director of Hell or High Water were well aware that they were drifting into fable territory and loosened the rules of the film’s world as events progressed. I will give this finely crafted film this drift towards an unearned happy ending. It is just that the ending itself seemed too clean for a film so otherwise grounded. The equivalent of that ghost pirate ship drifting in the background.

Speaking of endings souring an otherwise fine experience. Including a blasting Black Sabbath song at the end of the first Iron Man worked because, well, it’s an Iron Man movie and it’s an Iron Man song. This film is drifting quietly into the sunset and suddenly we are blasted with this loud, obnoxious country rock song (Outlaw State of Mind by Chris Stapleton) that fits neither the scene, mood, nor the film. 

Hell or Highwater overall is great. The acting is more than solid all across the board, and the film spends the vast majority of its running time in a good place. Like I said, a very good film overall till the ghost pirates show up.

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