Monday, April 1, 2019

Review: "The Highwaymen" was hardly worth the effort

The Highwaymen Review
There is no pill more bitter than disappointment, not at all.

I have been fascinated by the history of crime for as long as I can remember. There is something to the story of a mobster that draws in an audience, even though we know its immoral to act that way. I find it remarkable that several bank robbers during the 1930's were able to get the world on their side, to get the public to buy into their good-hearted personas. Even though those personas were pure shit. The criminals of the time were killing people, but that wasn't really something people knew. They just thought they were robbing the rich to give back to the poor. It was a wild time back then, and the movies, shows and books set in that time have always interested me.

The story of "The Highwaymen" should have been a slam dunk. We got Kevin Costner plating Frank Hamer, an old lawman from Texas who was once a Texas Ranger. He's been retired for awhile now, but is persuaded to re-enter the field when he is told about Bonnie and Clyde and the mockery they are making in his state. Hamer is given an off-the-books assignment to stop the terrible duo. The problem is, he's old. He can't shoot the way he used to. He can run the way he used to. The job has changed so much, he barely recognizes it. Even when he sort-of recruits his old partner Many Gault (Woody Harrelson), he's old too. Can they keep up with the ruthlessness and general fast-forward of the modern world? The movie co-stars Kathy Bates, John Carol Lynch, Kim Dickens and William Sadler.

What could possibly go wrong?

Flatly, everything.

As far as crime movies go, this movie moves at a snails pace. It's a bore and a half to get through. I'll be honest, I was fighting to stay awake by the end of the movie. Not because I was sleepy, but because I was quickly losing hope in what I thought would be a knockout. There is little to no action in the movie. I don't need constant action to be entertained, especially with a crime movie. But you have to write a script with engaging drama if you are going to have little action. The script fails miserably to keep an audience watching.

Pacing aside, the movie also feels like a bunch of random scenes, disjointed and discombobulated. Even though we follow the same characters and the same story, scenes feel like they are from different movies. We get a scene of Hamer practicing shooting, and failing miserably. Why even include that scene if you are going to give us the most anti-climatic ending in the history of modern movies? Why make Hamer's wife a character at all? She becomes irrelevant the moment she's off screen. So why even bother? Why bother bringing up Gault's family life if you are barely going to touch on it? Sure, it would have been cliche to get into such backstories, but it would be better than watching two men drive around for almost two and a half hours. 

Yes its true. That's the big reveal. We watch Bonnie and Clyde and their gang going around killing cops. Then we watch Hamer and Gault drive around trying to find them. Sure they stop every once in awhile for some exposition scenes, but they are quickly back on the road. All the while the audience is feeling the life escape out of their bodies. It's a painfully slow film. With no action, little excitement or engagement. Kevin Costner is fine, but he seems like he is going through the motions here. He's playing the same sort of quiet, worn-out character he's been playing the last few years. Even though this takes place in the 1930's, it all feels the same. I would say that Woody Harrelson wrangles some life out of his character. He is given some of the best scenes and dialogue. I found myself laughing at all the scenes involving him. Not because they were bad, but because he brought his A-game. He made certain moments funny and charming. The rest of this great cast comes and goes like a fart in the wind, barely being worth the money spent to hire them.

Despite a few good and one truly profound performance, there isn't much to say about "The Highwaymen." I was hoping for something akin to "Public Enemies," but this is anything but.


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