Netflix’s newest feature,
The Highwaymen, tells the story of
retired Texas Ranger’s Frank Hamer (Kevin Costner) and Maney Gault (Woody
Harrelson) as they take on a special assignment to track down and finally catch
infamous crooks Bonnie (Emily Brobst) and Clyde (Edward Bossert).
Director John Lee Hancock
made The Highwaymen to be as
historically accurate as possible, a fact that left me stunned. The portrait
Hancock paints of 1930’s America is an extremely dim one, with rundown buildings,
tents, and broken-down cars all being used as housing. This is quite
confronting at first as these scenes are quite stark in comparison to Australia,
however if you look closely, modern day Australia has its own homelessness
issues. On my last trip to Melbourne, there were homeless people on almost
As in real life, Bonnie
and Clyde are literal celebrities – to the point where they are mobbed by
crowds of people wanting to meet them. Let me clarify – these criminals are
glorified celebrities. Sadly this is no different to Australia, Ned Kelly is a
national icon, Chopper Reid had a movie and a TV series made about him, as did
the Moran brothers (Underbelly) and taxpayers foot the bill for Senator Anning
to fly across state lines to meet convicted violent criminals.
But this isn’t a
celebration of Bonnie and Clyde, with no real homage being given to their
notoriety, as they are very rarely in the film and we hardly see their faces. Fortunately,
the focus is mainly on Frank Hamer and Maney Gault and their efforts to find
the well-known criminals.
Costner as Hamer simply does
not put a foot wrong here, reminding us why he’s won 2 Oscars and been nominated
for numerous awards. His performance of the old timer lawman is flawless on all
accounts, with his line delivery being particularly excellent. After being
asked “Why should I trust you?” Hamer replies “Coz I said so”. It’s to the
point, direct and he says it in such a commanding tone that you would do just
that. Trust him.
Harrelson is also
fantastic. Heading into retirement, Gault hadn’t made the same sound financial
decisions as Hamer and is a victim of the Great Depression. Harrelson is able
is reflect this by playing Gault as a weathered alcoholic. Harrelson also
changes his physical actions to suit the role with Hamer stating he moves like
a 75 year old. Clearly suffering the effects of the great depression is a bad
thing but this aspect of Hamer’s life allows him to relate with others they
meet on the road, aiding the ex-Texas Rangers on their final assignment.
William Sadler is also
worthy of a mention as Henry Barrow, Clyde’s father. Barrow
and Hamer’s conversation in Barrow’s workshop is fantastic viewing and both
actors nail the scene. There is also a scene at a poker table with Harrelson’s
Gault recounting how he first met Hamer. The backstory is both thrilling and
The film isn’t fast
paced, but it doesn’t need to be. The two lead characters on their journey is
intriguing. Two ageing professionals on one last job, how will they fare? What
will they find? I was genuinely interested in the answers.
Overall, The Highwaymen is great. John Lee Hancock
does a valiant job in the directors’ chair, he even recreates the final
confrontation between Hamer, Gault, Bonnie and Clyde in the same location where
it happened in real life, with the scenes following that moment being very
traumatic. Not because of how bloody and gory they are, but because they show
how truly celebrated the killers were.
Director: John Lee Hancock Cast: Kevin Costner, Woody Harrelson, Kathy Bates Writer: John Fusco
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