We sometimes get caught up with the big names in history, and we forget the names that are associated with them. Bonnie and Clyde were well known as bank robbers who grew a fan club of poor people, because the two of them robbed banks. People who were suffering under the depression saw them as heroes. The two men who were tasked with tracking and bringing a stop to their run were never really known.
After two years of failing to capture Bonnie and Clyde, Governor Ma Ferguson (Kathy Bates) hires retired Texas Rangers Frank Hammer (Kevin Costner) and Maney Gault (Woody Harrelson) as Highwaymen to do whatever it was needed to end Bonnie and Clyde’s reign of terror.
This film captures Hammer and Gault’s story completely. We rarely see Bonnie and Clyde as they are just siding characters in this tale. They only make brief appearances. This is an excellent way of telling the story. It provides us with a frame of reference, so we can learn about Hammer and Gault and the Rangers in an engaging way. These are men who have had a hard life, and doing ugly things that at the time needed to be done to keep the peace and protect the people of Texas.
Costner plays a hard-hearted ranger who realizes he is too old for this kind of job, but he still takes it because it needs to be done. Costner plays this role outstandingly. He imparts a feeling of duty with a hint of regret. He has a dark past, but he stonewalls his emotions behind a dedication to doing his duty.
Harrelson’s character has shared the same experiences, but he caries the faces of the people he’s killed. Haunted by them, he survives by drinking not to forget, but to numb himself to his memories.
“Highwaymen’s” cinematography is outstanding. The filmmakers capture the feeling of desperation of people surviving in a crippling economic depression. They walk through immigrant camps where people have pitched a tent next to their cars and try to survive. We see the throngs of people who idolize Bonnie and Clyde, because they stick it to the banking system that many see as the bad guys who have taken their farms and homes.
I was surprised at the level of quality from a Netflix production. I don’t associate them with feature-length films. I know they do a lot of series and showing other studio’s films. I felt Steven Spielberg is right when he said, Netflix films shouldn't be in the same category when it comes to Oscar nominations. I was wrong. This shows me that not only does it belong in the same class, but if the studios want to continue to be relevant, they need to pick up their game.
“Highwaymen” has something fresh and new on a subject that has been well covered. But now it's from a different point of view, and from a studio that seems to be dedicated to telling a good story than trying to keep a hold of an antiquated system that no one is interested in anymore.
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