THV11 Movie Review: Hell or High Water

THV11's film critic, Jonathan Nettles tells us what to expect in theaters this weekend

There are always a couple of weekend in which studios decided not to have Thursday night showings of their new releases. It’s rare that none of the new releases screen on Thursday night but occasionally it happens.  This weekend is one of those rare instances.  Actually, it wasn’t until the last 2-3 years that you didn’t have to wait for midnight to see a new movie on Thursday night.  Eventually, studio began showing new movies at 10pm, now many of them start screening at 7pm.  Again, this was one of those weeks in which the studio opted out of the Thursday night showing which leaves a critic in a pinch.  That’s why I’m reviewing a film that was released a couple of weeks ago. I’ve had a few people come ask me if I’ve seen Hell or High Water.  I’m a fan of Chris Pine, Ben Foster, and Jeff Bridges so I wanted to see it from the first time the trailer premiered.  I don’t always get to see the movies I really want to see.  That’s for various reasons, sometimes there’s not a showing I can get to, it may not screen on Thursday, or sometimes I need to go see the movie that people are talking about.

Chris Pine and Ben Foster play Toby and Tanner, brothers living in the middle of Texas in an area that has fallen on hard economic times.  Get out of Debt signs are scattered along the roadways alongside closed gas stations, factories that are shuttered, and houses that are for sale. Toby has been taking care of their dying mother while Tanner has been in jail.  The movie starts with them robbing the branches of a bank that are scattered throughout the area.  They seem to have a pretty simple plan, rob the banks early in the morning and then head to a casino to launder the money.  Their plan seems to be going pretty well until they capture the attention of Marcus, a Texas Ranger played by Jeff Bridges who is on the verge of retirement.  With their goal nearly achieved, the brothers are headed towards a showdown that will change everyone’s lives in ways they didn’t expect.

Hell or High Water feels like a character study.  What is a character study?  According to, it is a work of fiction in which the delineation of the central character’s personality is more important than the plot.  Most “character studies” center on one character.  Examples are Raging Bull, Citizen Kane, and Birdman. Even Groundhog Day is considered by some to be a “character study."  Hell or High Water diverges from that by studying three different characters.  The bank robberies and the getaways are not what the movie is really about.  It’s about the 2 bank robbing brothers and the Texas Ranger that’s chasing them.  Toby and Tanner have different motivations and vastly different personalities.  They both feel a compelling sense of duty to their families but while one of them wants to change his legacy, the other seeks redemption.  Marcus is worried about his future.  He’s not looking forward to the days of sitting on the front porch with nothing to drive him forward. He doesn’t want to be put out to pasture so he’s seeking one last pursuit.  As he’s trying to find the bank robbers, he’s also trying to find his future.

Hell or High Water is a good movie but it’s not going to blow anyone’s mind.  It’s very simple in nearly every aspect of it.  There’s an undertone of change from the Old West to the Modern West.  You can dive into the characters and how well the actors portray them or you can sit back and watch it all unfold.  It doesn’t require too much from you.  Remember, it’s not the plot that’s interesting, it’s the characters.

Also in theaters this week, The Light Between Oceans is a heart-breaking drama about fate, love, moral dilemmas and the lengths to which one couple will go to see their dreams realized.  It stars Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander, and Rachel Weisz. In the years following World War I, Tom is a young veteran still numb from his years in combat, he takes a job as lighthouse keeper on a remote island.  As the island's sole inhabitant, he finds comfort in the monotony of the chores and the solitude of his surroundings. When he meets Isabel, Tom is immediately captivated by her beauty, wit and passion, and they are soon married and living on the island.  Their happiness marred only by their inability to start a family, so when a rowboat with a dead man and infant girl mysteriously washes ashore, Isabel believes their prayers may have finally been answered.  As a man of principle, Tom is torn between reporting the lost child and pleasing the woman he loves, and against his better judgment he agrees to let Isabel raise the child as their own, making a choice with devastating consequences.

In Morgan, Kate Mara plays a corporate troubleshooter who is sent to a remote, top-secret location, where she is to investigate and evaluate a terrifying accident.  She learns the event was triggered by a seemingly innocent "human," who presents a mystery of both infinite promise and incalculable danger.  Morgan also stars Jennifer Jason Leigh and Paul Giamatti.

And finally, Equity in which a senior investment banker attempts to navigate the cutthroat world of Wall Street when a company's IPO threatens to derail the career she's built.  Equity stars Anna Gunn and James Purefoy.

Available on Streaming:
Captain America: Civil War
Citizen Soldier
What Happened, Miss Simone?
My Love, Don’t Cross That River
The Conjuring 2
Viva Sultan
Rams (Hrutar)
Blue is the Warmest Color
The Road
13 Assassins
Blue Ruin
Elvis & Nixon

Available on DVD & Blu-Ray:
The Jungle Book (2016)
The Phenom
Me Before You
Chimes at Midnight
The Immortal Story


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