A Laconic Tale Told Languidly


Title: Hell or High Water

Rating: 4 Stars

This is a story of two relationships. One is a pair of brothers, Tanner and Toby. Tanner is the ne’er do well. He rebelled against his father, ‘accidentally’ shooting him, before ultimately being sent away for robbing banks. The other brother, Toby, is the diligent one. He stayed with their mother as she wasted away. As she died, she left behind large debts that will result in the loss of the family range, a range in which oil has been discovered. The bank is just waiting for the loan to foreclose so that they can swoop in and take the land away from the family.

In desperation, Toby hatches a desperate plan to rob just enough banks to get the money to pay off the loans, at which point he’ll create a trust for the ranch and leave it to his now semi-estranged children. He asks Tanner for help, and of course, being the wild one who is always up for madness, Tanner readily agrees.

They begin to rob a series of banks.

The other relationship is between the two Texas rangers sent to pursue them. There is Marcus Hamilton, a long tired detective on the verge of retirement that has no life to look forward to. His partner is Alberto Parker, part Native American and part Mexican. They have a long running relationship that pretty much consists of Hamilton regularly busting Parker’s chops, not the least making regular jokes about his mixed heritage. They do, in a fashion, like and respect each other, although there is a edge to the humor that I believe Parker feels.

An argument can be made that there is another relationship at play here. It is the relationship of the bank to the community. It’s clear that the bank has been bleeding the people dry for some time. On the long drives in Texas that it takes to get anywhere, multiple signs of hopelessness are seen. Closed businesses, homes for sale, and signs of poverty and despair are seen everywhere. No one has a good word to say of the bank, and when push comes to shove, the people will back their people, the robbers, before they’ll back the bank.

The desolate landscape of that part of Texas reflects this barrenness. The people have no hope, and when they have no hope, desperate actions will result. Toby, clearly a decent man, feels that he has no recourse.

The two rangers, in what could charitably be called a laconic way, pursue the robbers. Ultimately, of course, I’m guessing that it’ll be no spoiler that the bad brother will sacrifice himself to let the good brother perform his act of redemption. And probably in yet another not completely unexpected spoiler, the two protagonists, Toby and Hamilton, will meet in a showdown with at best ambiguous results.

No criminal gets away clean. No law enforcer ever retires. These are pretty trite cliches, but this is such a well done and well acted movie that even if a cliche, it still rings true.


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