“Hell or High Water” Is the Summer’s Best Movie

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A lot of shit movies came out this summer. Too many to name, really. I saw a bunch of them, because I see everything, and I have a hard time even remembering what a lot of them were. They were that bad.

But this weekend, I watched Hell or High Water, which I had very low expectations for — mostly because it had a 99% score on Rotten Tomatoes. I don’t trust that site’s hive mind for anything.

Turns out, I was pleasantly surprised. So surprised, in fact, I’m comfortable saying Hell or High Water is this summer’s best movie. Not sure it’s the best movie of the year, but it’s definitely up there.

Hell or High Water stars Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, Ben Foster and Gil Birmingham. It takes place in West Texas, which might as well be a whole different America, as far as I’m concerned. And it’s nominally about two brothers who rob banks to pay down debt they owe to the very same banks they’re stealing from.

There’s a twist to that plot that makes the movie all the more worthwhile. By the end you’re not really certain who the good or bad guys really are anymore — at least that’s what I took from it. Actually, what I really took from it is just how lawless that part of the country can get.

In this, I found the movie to be more of a pulpy modern-day Western than anything else, and directed by David Mackenzie, whom I was not previously familiar with, I was really impressed by what the movie actually looked like. There are all these gloriously-lit scenes of well-worn ranches, barren valleys and empty Texas towns.

Real depressing white people shit — I love it.

Written by Taylor Sheridan, who also wrote Sicario — a good, if not slightly overrated movie — Hell or High Water also has one other thing going for it: it’s really funny. I don’t mean funny like Louis CK kind of funny. I mean more that the dialogue is peppered with witty, sarcastic banter. Everyone in this movie has a slick comment about everything.

That humor made me think a lot about Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and other Westerns from late 60’s and 70’s, back when writers actually wrote how normal people talked; not in this jilted, “here let me explain everything I am about to do, since I think the viewer is too stupid to understand anything” kind of way. It really is a well-written movie.

Anyway. Check out Hell or High Water if you’re in the mood to be entertained. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Then again, you never know.

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Wrote for the New York Times, New York Magazine, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Vice, Fader, Vibe, XXL, MTV News, many other places.

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