The Highwaymen

There are a handful of classic movies I saw between the ages of 10 and 16 that I’ve been meaning to revisit. Sometimes when you’re an adult and watch a movie you saw as a kid, you’re surprised by how much went over your head (or why your parents even let you watch it in the first place; I think I saw Deliverance when I was 12, but I digress).

I also saw Bonnie and Clyde at around 12-years-old and barely remember it. I remember thinking Warren Beatty was a charming bad guy, and being surprised that Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) was in it.

I thought the idea of a story from law enforcement’s perspective was an intriguing idea, and apparently, so did Netflix.

This is directed by John Lee Hancock, who has written a few good screenplays (his first also starred Kevin Costner, but on the wrong side of the law, in A Perfect World).

He’s directed a few okay films (The Founder, The Rookie), a disappointing Tom Hanks/Emma Thompson movie (Saving Mr. Banks), and an Oscar nominated movie — The Blind Side.

This movie will fall into the “okay” category of his pictures.

It is the true story of Texas Ranger Frank Hamer (Kevin Costner) and Maney Gault (Woody Harrelson), who killed Bonnie and Clyde.

I had gotten tired of seeing Costner in Westerns (this is sort of a modern day Western) and have gotten tired of seeing Harrelson in….every damn movie that comes out! Planet of the Apes, Solo, Three Billboards, Hunger Games, Zombieland, Now You See Me…yes, we always see you! Enough already. Take a break for a year or two.

Yet both of these guys are perfectly cast in their roles. They have faces (and voices) of characters that are haunted by their past.

Who knew that the Rangers brought in to hunt down this popular criminal duo, had already retired and gone on with their lives. Hamer — with a rich socialite; Gault, as an alcoholic with money problems. Yet it’s back in the saddle for these boys. Well, back in an old V8 Ford.

Early on, there were some interesting scenes. Hamer going into a gun shop and buying half the store. And, upon running into Gault outside said gun shop, lecturing him on booze. It reminded me of Gene Hackman (am I really bringing him up again?) lecturing Dennis Hopper in Hoosiers.

The cinematography (John Schwartzman) is nice, shot across barren areas of Texas and Louisiana. There’s a sad score by Thomas Newman that is perfect for the picture. Fun fact: Newman got an Oscar nomination for scoring Saving Mr. Banks.

The problem with this movie is that it needed a rewrite, and to be trimmed down a bit. As things were, it was a tad boring. It’s weird because, often times at parties, I’ll ask people with different professions (police, lawyers, firefighters, military), what they think about how Hollywood portrays their profession. The thing I hear most often is: “It’s not nearly that exciting.”

Yet here is a movie that’s showing you how slowly the process went with two older Rangers (that seemed to be in the most danger when they were running after a kid and having trouble breathing). One of the things I liked about Hancock’s script with A Perfect World, was that it had a leisurely pace and we got to know the characters. In this, there’s not as much dialogue between the two at times. Other times, it had too much dialogue and not enough interesting set pieces. I never got to know these characters in a way that made me invested in their hunt. Maybe it’s also because…you sort of go into it knowing they’re going to catch them.   

It’s a period piece that’s an interesting part of history. Maybe it’s the fact that a few times I thought about Hell or High Water, which was the best movie of 2016. That’s not fair to this picture.

You can catch it at the Hillcrest Landmark or on Netflix.

2 stars out of 5.


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