The Wild West is no longer gun-totin’ cowboys riding cavalry as they rob banks. Don’t be ridiculous. It’s now gun-totin’ cowboys riding pick-up trucks as they rob banks!
Brothers Toby and Tanner (Chris Pine and Ben Foster) hatch a plan to steal from several Midland Texas banks in order to relieve a prison of debt left to them by their late mother.
Their shenanigans are soon noticed by the law, though the FBI doesn’t deem it necessary to get involved as they have purposely stolen under $40,000.
So instead, assigned to the case are Police Rangers Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) weeks away from retirement, and Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham) who must endure Marcus’ constant heckling about his Native American and Mexican heritage. The pair of duos begin a collision course towards each other which is guaranteed to end in bloodshed.
The movie finds empathy with all parties, but remains fierce and clear in painting the banks as the bad guys and you’ll leave the theatre feeling pretty angry. What you won’t expect is how deeply the film gets you to care about its characters as they’re caught in the crossfire of their dreams. The ensuing inevitable violence hurts because these characters all matter.
Oddly enough, the film is much funnier than you would think. It’s definitely no Oceans 11 heist, as the Texan Rangers would rather kick their feet up at a pub in case the brothers decide to show up and rob the bank across the road.
The side characters the film creates are downright hilarious and applicable to anyone who’s ever visited a country town. Director David Mackenzie plays these characters as clichés, only to surprise us and upend them as humans.
The villains are clear from the outset; however, part of you will unashamedly want them to get away with their heinous antics. They’re not exactly Robin Hoods, but their rebellion against the system will do for now.
It’s clear how much respect each actor has for their character – nothing Chris Pine has done before has prepared me for how good he is here. Bridges again plays his slightly-inaudible-politically-incorrect brut cowboy character seen in previous films Crazy Heart and True Grit. Playing their part with a dustbowl soundtrack are Australians Nick Cave and Warren Ellis.
The desolate dusty towns paint the best portrait of the Badlands of West Texas since No Country for Old Men. Mackenzie strikes this mark quickly with an opening 360 shot of a parking lot with graffiti scrawled across a building which reads; ‘3 TOURS IN IRAQ BUT NO BAILOUT FOR PEOPLE LIKE US’. From this establishing shot it’s clear we’re in steady hands.