Hell Or High Water

Recession-hit crime drama; Nick Cave provides the score

Trending Now

Introducing the new Uncut: Robert Plant, Malkmus, Iggy, Elton and more

Thanks, first of all, for the overwhelmingly positive response to Sounds Of The New West Volume 5 last month....

An Audience With Andrew Weatherall

By way of tribute to Andrew Weatherall, whose death was confirmed earlier today, I thought I’d post my interview...

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever on their new album: “It’s weirder… it feels exciting”

In our recent 2020 album preview, Fran Keaney, singer and acoustic guitarist in Melbourne's Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, told...

Pitched as a heist movie, David Mackenzie’s latest film feels more like a contemporary Western set in a time of heightened financial anxiety. Rather like Andrew Dominik’s outstanding Killing Them Softly, Hell Or High Water is a film about recession-hit criminals, burdened by reverse mortgage loans and back taxes.

The genre’s classic signifiers are there – Texas Rangers, Comanche Indians, bank robbers – but they have been pushed close to extinction by economic collapse, foreclosures and debt. Chris Pine and Ben Foster play brothers who rob a number of Texas Midland Bank branches to raise enough funds to cover debts incurred by the family farm – debt that is owed to the same chain of banks. It’s a devilish, if grim irony.


They’re pursued by a pair of Texas Rangers – crusty Jeff Bridges and his stoical deputy Gil Birmingham. Mackenzie and screenwriter Taylor Sheridan (who wrote last year’s crime thriller, Sicario) let the film unfold leisurely – though Sheridan sometimes makes his points about the iniquities of the banks a little laboriously.

Pine – rangy, hawk-like – resembles Robert Ryan as the “good” brother, while Bridges is satisfactorily curmudgeonly as the old timer enjoying one last hurrah before impending retirement. It’s hard to find a thread between Mackenzie’s films – from the magic realism of Young Adam and Hallam Foe to the shouty violence of Starred Up. Hell Or High Water, meanwhile, is another career swerve: though it is pretty good.

Meanwhile, Nick Cave and Warren Ellis provide a score that typically shifts between scratchy and twangy.

Follow me on Twitter @MichaelBonner

The October 2016 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – featuring our cover story on David Bowie, plus Margo Price, Lou Reed, David Crosby, Devendra Banhart, Van Der Graaf Generator, The Turtles, The Beatles, Granny Takes A Trip, Kate Bush, Drive-By Truckers, Jack White, Ray Charles, Led Zeppelin, Wilco and more plus 32 pages of reviews and our free 15-track CD

Uncut: the spiritual home of great rock music.


Latest Issue

Robert Plant, Karen Dalton, Elton John, Stephen Malkmus, Maria McKee, Shabaka Hutchings and Iggy & Bowie – plus a free 15-track CD