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The Highwaymen - A Review


The story of Bonnie and Clyde, as told by a Netflix budget.  This is definitely a better done movie than the previously reviewed Triple Frontier, which was sold as a better piece but not as well made as this film.  Since this may be a thing, customary disclaimer that this post will contain spoilers.




To start off, this movie did a lot with so little.  Not much for special effects, probably re-used old hollywood sets which were in storage for the town scenes, they re-used the same scenery several times, and they used some old cars/guns/clothing which kept the focus on the acting and overall story line.


Costner plays Frank Hamer, who is/was a captain with the Texas Rangers, retired.  He gets called back into service by Lee Simmons, to go after the "murderous" Bonnie and Clyde with the approval of Ma Ferguson, who was the TX governor at the time.


Harrelson plays Maney Gault, who is also a retired Texas Ranger, not as well off as Hamer, definitely older, but still is eager to get back into the field, especially since he's been drinking himself to sleep.


The story starts off with Ma Ferguson bitching about Bonnie and Clyde being on the run and killing people after a prison break.  This was after she disbanded the Texas Rangers, who were in all regard of that period of time in history, the heavy hand of the law which everyone respected.  The issue was that the new brand of law enforcement which was out to get Bonnie and Clyde weren't up to the task, referring to the FBI "g-men" (the FBI's name wasn't changed until a few years after this occurred) and other younger, less experienced law enforcement officers of that period.  Ferguson allows Lee Simmons, who Hamer worked with, to enlist Hamer to go out and get Bonnie and Clyde as he was the most capable of accomplishing that task.

Hamer, in retirement, appears bored and wants out of his mundane, and completely useless life.  He's got a pet pig, a wife who likes to throw garden parties and hasn't touched a firearm in years.  Hamer, however, is perfectly content because he has spent his years of service as a Texas Ranger getting into shootouts, getting shot, and being an overall bad-ass, retirement is something he is perfectly happy with, sitting on the porch, drinking his tea and hanging out with his pet pig.  This is confirmed through his inability to hit a bottle being thrown by some kids and his self-talk about how old he is.  Eventually his wife accepts the fact he's going off to do what he's been asked to do, he's got a duty to do it after all.  Hamer's character is portrayed as the mild and meek appearing guy who just wants to live the rest of his life in peace, anyone who disturbs that peace will meet the old Hamer, which is what the movie is really about.

Fast forward to the gun-shop scene, where Hamer is buying up all sorts of rifles, ammo, etc.  Back when you could walk into a store and buy a fully auto BAR, and a crate of ammo for it.  Lots of the stuff was correctly timed for that period in history, however there were somethings that just weren't, as in the G-43 at the top of below picture, which would have been created a whole ten years after this occurred.


Moving on, Gault finds himself having to justify his existence to Hamer, even though they worked together beforehand.  Gault is an excellent supporting character because he's doesn't look the part that a Texas Ranger of his legend would look, and he's developed himself a drinking problem.  For those of us in the LE profession, Gault is the guy who retired too early, and found himself looking at the inside of a bottle because he's not supposed to have retired and regrets every second of it.  He hates the fact he doesn't do "the job" anymore and isn't very good at anything else.  He's also got a family he needs to support but he is willing to drop it all for a chance to help his friend to do the job, one more time.

After this part, the story intertwines with that of the hunt for Bonnie and Clyde, the characters of Hamer and Gault get developed really well.  To the point you start to want to cheer for either one of them.  This is an essential part of this movie as you want them to be victorious in finding and killing Bonnie and Clyde.

One of the transitions in the movie is Hamer's move from well mannered and by the book to "screw this" type of mindset.  He begins to realize he is no longer a ranking officer in the Texas Rangers and that he will need to color outside the lines in order to do what needs to be done so that no more innocent people get killed.  You start to feel for Hamer and his need to stop the senseless killing of his fellow law enforcement officers, his move towards the gray area is an essential part of this movie which really knocks it out of the park.  It's not completely into vigilantism, he's not batman or anything of that nature, he doesn't hurt a single person who doesn't require him to go hands on.

Gault also transitions but from a meek and tender old man, to the guy whose still got it, and knows exactly what he is capable of but lacking the confidence he once may, or may not, have had while he an active Texas Ranger.  The bathroom scene is a good one which shows this character development, compare that to the first few scenes Gault was in, that's almost a totally different character.  That is also a good example of the delineation between the two characters and how they ended up working together.

The story touches on Bonnie and Clyde to an extent but they are really secondary to the whole story, which is essentially an accepting reality type for Hamer and Gault.

I know this movie is based on a true story, and I know I have seen other Bonnie and Clyde movies which had Hamer and Gault in them, I just don't remember them off the top of my head and, honestly, I do not really care too much about the historical accuracy of the story because for that time period no one really, truly, knows every little bit of happenings and the only thing we know for sure is that Bonnie and Clyde got ambushed by the characters and killed in their vehicle, that moment, of them being ambushed, was the longest camera time they had at any given moment, hence the secondary story aspect.

As period timed movies go, this was a well done movie.  Costumes and vehicles, firearms, accents, alcohol and mannerisms.  Not that I am an expert but I've been to Texas, and as it is a great state, I could totally see the modern evolution of that which was portrayed in the movie.  The scenery was really awesome, they did a good job of finding various locations which still resembled that time period, visually it was pleasing as it was supporting of the whole film, as in the dirt roads, random backwoods encounters and old-time styled streets and stores.  This was not a fast paced movie, though it had fast-paced parts.  This was a character development story, and it excellent in that.

The only things I did not enjoy about the movie was the various little bits of fluff thrown in.  Ma Ferguson, while essential to the story was pointless as a character, which was overacted by Kathy Bates.  Lee Simmons character, another one which could have probably been perfectly fine with just one or two lines in the whole movie, maybe they were just filling in time?

These types of roles are great for aging actors like Costner and Harrelson.  I thought Harrelson was excellent in the first series of True Detective, and this character type casting really works for him.  Costner is a decent actor in every regard and here he is in his element.  Both actors work well in gritty movies and this is no except, I enjoyed this movie and hopefully both will stick to these types of roles as they work well.