2016’s Hell or High Water is a present day take on the western film genre; complete with bank robbers, wise-cracking Rangers, gun fights, cowboys, Indians, casinos, and small towns.
Brothers, Tanner and Toby Howard, rob banks are bank robbers. They collect funds to pay back real estate taxes and a reverse mortgage on their family’s ranch. Toby and the bank knows there’s oil in the land. So, there’s rush to pay off their debt before the bank forecloses on them.
Toby, the mild-mannered brother, enlists his ex-con brother to help rob small branches of a regional bank. To evade law enforcement, the Howard brothers take only loose cash, which they subsequently launder at area casinos.
Hot on the trail
Hot on the trail of these bank robbing brothers is a pair of veteran Texas Rangers, Alberto Parker and Marcus Hamilton. They have a fraternal relationship of their own. Parker is constantly the butt of the loving, yet tasteless, jokes handed out by his partner. Throughout the film, Marcus never lets Alberto forget about his half Mexican, half Native American, heritage.
Hamilton, brilliantly brought to the screen by Oscar winner Jeff Bridges, is weeks away from retirement, but refuses to give anything but 100% in finding the Howards and stopping them from taking down any more banks.
Ultimately, the brilliance of HELL OR HIGH WATER is that it doesn’t try to create a cliché struggle between good and evil. Instead, this film presents a powerful social commentary against the modern banking system, depicts how rural America has literally vanished under the thumb of corporate America, and illustrates the limits people will go to when attempting to end generations of poverty in their family.