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Tag Archive: The Highwaymen


Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s not that often actors that make it to the level of movie stardom get to have that curtain call.  Robert Redford announced after the filming of The Old Man & the Gun that this would be his last film in front of the camera.  A tribute to Redford and a wind-up of a great and unusual career of smartly made choices by the actor, it’s an enjoyable film and final take on the persona Redford played so well in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting, and Sneakers.  Earlier this year Netflix released a new film called The Highwaymen, a story written by John Fusco about the Texas Rangers that finally took down Bonnie and Clyde.  Years ago Redford was taking the script to Paul Newman intending it to round out their two crime films together (Butch & Sundance and The Sting), but Newman passed away.  That story would have been a great final film for both, but somehow The Old Man & the Gun is truer to the legacy of Redford as that hard-to-resist bad guy.  Redford hangs up the acting part of his life just the way we like him, as the good bad guy.

Writer/director David Lowery could have made The Old Man & the Gun something over the top, something like Space Cowboys, but we know Redford wouldn’t have signed up for something like that.  This is more subtle, sweet, and sentimental, doing something similar for Redford to what Clint Eastwood has been doing with his elder years roles like Gran Torino and The Mule.  The Old Man & the Gun is in the same genre as the Eastwood and Kevin Costner film A Perfect World, another take on Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio’s Catch Me if You Can, and without the intensity of Jeff Bridges and Chris Pine’s Hell or High Water, introducing us to another criminal and his pursuer, this one 82-year-old Redford playing the 62-year-old real-life, early 1980s bank robber Forrest Tucker.  Redford looks more 82 than 62, but it doesn’t matter, older is better here, and the casting director who teamed him with Sissy Spacek as love interest deserves some kudos.  Redford’s thief is a likable enough guy who leads a small-scale Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid gang consisting of a quirky Danny Glover and Tom Waits.  Ultimately the film is worthy of all these actors, enough reason alone to check it out.

Rounding out a quartet of Academy Award-winners with Redford and Spacek and a blink-and-you’ll miss him Keith Carradine, is Casey Affleck, playing the young, local police pursuer a bit differently than the typical cop trying to get his guy that we’ve seen in countless police stories.  Through interviews we watch him learn that every person who has been robbed by Tucker sees Tucker as a nice, sympathetic, grandfatherly old gentleman.  Taking cues from his kids and wife played by Tika Sumpter, Affleck’s cop takes a step back, and his performance is subtly played.  And quite good.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Eighty-five years ago today, April 1, 1934, two Texas highway patrolmen, 26-year-old Edward Wheeler and 22-year-old Holloway Murphy were on motorcycle patrol, checking on a car they thought may need assistance.  Instead, they were gunned down by Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker.  It was Easter Sunday.  The two notorious criminals had repeatedly evaded the law, in part because they were sheltered in an era where the stupidity of the masses outweighed sense and a large segment of the populace viewed them as some kind of folk heroes.  Despite being captured by two former Texas Rangers, Frank Hamer and Maney Gault, that legendary hero status stuck somehow, thanks in part to Hollywood, and specifically the rather popular and also critically acclaimed movie Bonnie and Clyde starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway.  That film portrayed a rollicking, at times humorous, ride, which in fact, shared little of substance about the criminals and their victims.  Hollywood is now doing an about-face with a new, edgy, thoughtful drama, which includes the murders of Wheeler and Murphy and others, in director John Lee Hancock‘s The Highwaymen, now on Netflix.

Hancock, who wrote screenplays for the Kevin Costner/Clint Eastwood film A Perfect World, the screenplay for Eastwood’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and wrote and directed the 2004 version of The Alamo, offers up a reserved, measured tale not of the infamous criminals this time, but the two aging men, Hamer and Gault, who knew how to track and kill criminals.  That’s thanks to a script by John Fusco, who has experience writing historical accounts for the screen, as found in his Billy the Kid story Young Guns, the Babe Ruth biopic Babe, the 1890s horse rider tale Hidalgo, and his heavily researched series Marco Polo.  Despite the sometimes dry “historical drama” label, The Highwaymen is by no means devoid of compelling storytelling.  Plus, headlined by Kevin Costner, playing the elder more experienced former Ranger Frank Hamer, and Woody Harrelson as the slightly less experienced B.M. “Maney” Gault, the film showcases the chemistry between the duo.  In one key dramatic sequence the two lawmen come upon a temporary residence for the criminals, looking for clues among the closeted clothing in what could be the bedroom of any small town couple of the day.  But Harrelson may get the most satisfying scene, as he responds to being cornered by a group of Barrow supporters while in a public restroom.

The film is fueled by a compelling musical score by Thomas Newman (Spectre, Skyfall, Road to Perdition, The Shawshank Redemption, Fried Green Tomatoes, The Man With One Red Shoe), the kind of a soundtrack that will no doubt stand well as its own creative work.  His score sets the tempo of the picture while not overtaking it, as happened with Ennio Morricone’s Oscar-nominated score for Costner’s The Untouchables, a similar era film that will no doubt be compared to The HighwaymenNewman’s music is entirely different, a balance of post-Civil War, Western, and Depression-era motifs with guitar that echoes the former Rangers’ cowboy, horse-riding past.  Cinematographer John Schwartzman delivers the kind of bleak, spacious, 1930s America perhaps last scene in László Kovács’ film work on Peter Bogdanovich’s depression-era film Paper Moon.

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We haven’t seen Kevin Costner as an Oscar contender for thirty years, but the latest Netflix release has all the right elements for that kind of potential with Costner back with his Gary Cooper-esque style, and that Oscar possibility may line up for Woody Harrelson, too.  The first trailer for The Highwaymen has arrived and if you’re as much of a fan of The Untouchables as we are, this new historical drama about bringing the crime duo of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow to justice in 1934 may be just for you.  And with theatrical releases slated for two weeks in advance of its Netflix premiere, it may also be the Netflix movie that gets you to buy tickets and see it on the big screen.

Director John Lee Hancock (The Founder, The Rookie, Saving Mr. Banks, The Blind Side, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Snow White and the Huntsman, A Perfect World) is putting aside the comedy of the famous 1967 version–Bonnie and Clyde with Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, which garnered ten Oscar nominations–opting for a gritty, realistic take on the brutal murderers and their bloody end.  Originally developed years ago by screenplay writer John Fusco (Crossroads, Young Guns, Marco Polo) to star Robert Redford and Paul Newman, the movie tracks Costner as Frank Hamer and Harrelson as Maney Gault, both real-life ex-Texas Rangers commissioned as special investigators by banks to finally capture the infamous robbers and murderers.  It’s hard not to see Costner’s Eliot Ness from The Untouchables, but this time taking on older cop Sean Connery’s role in the story, or even the Clint Eastwood role instead of the convict part he played in Hancock’s 1993 hot pursuit movie A Perfect World.

The supporting cast could hardly look better, with Kathy Bates (Misery, Titanic) as Governor Ma Ferguson, and Hancock’s The Founder co-star John Carroll Lynch as Lee Simmons, along with Hancock’s The Blind Side co-star Kim Dickens.  It also features Thomas Mann (Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, Kong: Skull Island), and perennial TV and film favorites W. Earl Brown (The X-Files, Deadwood, True Detective) and William Sadler (Wonderfalls, Deep Space Nine).

Here is the trailer for The Highwaymen:

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