DVD Review: Hell or High Water

helldvdSTUDIO: Lionsgate | DIRECTOR: David Mackenzie | CAST: Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Dale Dickey, Gil Birmingham, Katy Mixon
RELEASE DATE: 11/22/16 | PRICE: DVD $14.99, Blu-ray/DVD Combo $19.96
BONUSES: featurettes, filmmaker Q&A, red carpet footage
SPECS: R | 122 min. | Western thriller | 2.40:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1/DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 | English and Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

One of the best reviewed films of 2016 and the biggest independent box-office earner of the year ($26 million and counting), this modern-day western is smashing in all departments. It boasts an engrossing script, superior acting and gorgeous cinematography,  all filtered through gritty, no-nonsense direction by British helmer David Mackenzie (Perfect Sense).

Chris Pine and Ben Foster in Hell or High Water

Chris Pine and Ben Foster in Hell or High Water

The setting is impoverished contemporary West Texas where testy ex-con Tanner (Ben Foster, The Finest Hours) and his divorced, unemployed brother Toby (Chris Pine, Star Trek: Into Darkness) set out on a bank robbing  spree, banging out a series of robberies of small banks in the area. A soon-to-retire Texas Ranger (Jeff Bridges, Cutter’s Way) and his Native American-Mexican deputy (Gil Birmingham, The Lone Ranger) attempt to figure out who’s behind the crimes, which are getting exceedingly more violent.

There are obvious similarities here  to the Coen Brothers’ No Country for Old Men, but rather than a  super-villain like No Country’s Anton Chigurh, we have Foster and Pine as siblings dealing with real-life issues that elicit empathy from the audience despite their unscrupulous activities.  On the other side of the desolate highway is wise-cracking Bridges, smart and sage-like, who will remind many of Tommy Lee Jones’ lawman  in the Coen Brothers movie—in a good way.

There’s an extra layer of social issues and politics here that push the movie beyond its crime drama origins and into thought-provoking territory.  The film steadily builds, picking up intensity as it goes along.

Expect strong support from genre fans and indie watchers alike for this is that rare crossover picture that satisfies both audiences equally. And end-of-the-year “Top 10” list mentions and, possibly, awards will propel the title even further.

Buy or Rent Hell or High Water
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About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.