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Comedy-Romantic Comedy

A Hologram for the King

The movie version of a Dave Eggars novel wastes Tom Hanks and leaps headlong into cultural cliché.

Drama

Indignation

Philip Roth's veiled autobiography about early 1950s college life makes little headway on screen.

Demon

Marcin Wrona's portrayal of a wedding, and a haunting, is a brilliant look at historical denial.

Florence Foster Jenkins

Stephen Frears' biopic has star power (Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant) but remains ordinary.

Horror

Southbound

Four directors do a good job of situating purgatory on a California highway, until they run out of gas.

Thrillers

High-Rise

Ben Wheatley's adaptation of a 1975 J.G. Ballard parable is beautiful to look at but dated in spirit.

Regression

Alejandro Amenábar's mediocre devil-worship thriller is really an object lesson in manipulated hysteria.

The Ones Below

David Farr's creepy thriller about babies and unstable mothers is at once unsettling but predictable.

Science Fiction

10 Cloverfield Lane

The prequel to "Cloverfield" is an ode to the menace of John Goodman, who steals this show.

Fantasy

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Tim Burton's whimsical latest has a better chance of appealing to grandchildren than adults.




Date: 2016
Directed by: David MacKenzie
Starring: Ben Foster, Chris Pine, Gil Birmingham, Jeff Bridges, Katy Mixon

Hell or High Water

"Hell or High Water" is an engaging remake of the Western for the early 21st century. On the surface it's a classic buddy film with two sets of buddies, bank-robbing brothers, hotheaded vs. cool-headed, and two Texas Rangers, one old and crusty, the other half-Comanche, half-Mexican. Stereotypes abound: abusive father, mother who prefers one son, acerbic divorcee, savvy waitress (nicely played by Katy Mixon), evil banker, and serial robberies.

Scottish director David Mackenzie and writer Taylor Sheridan ("Sicario") effectively refashion these stereotypes to fit today's culture. Though one Ranger spews non-PC language, he remains devoted to his Mexican-Native American sidekick. Robberies aside, bankers are portrayed as evildoers that peddle reverse mortgages with onerous terms. Everything about the West Texas small town setting echoes the bypassed rural America that elected Donald Trump. The townspeople don't identify particularly with the gunmen, nor are they particularly eager to help out a government (represented by the Rangers) they consider irrelevant to their lives.

In contrast to the stylized blood and gore of Quentin Tarantino's "The Hateful Eight," MacKenzie's movie gives you only two deaths and just one spurting artery. Sheridan's script keeps the story moving by shifting between the pursued buddy robbers and pursuing buddy lawmen. Robber brothers Tanner and Toby (appealingly acted by Ben Foster and Chris Pine) are neither evil enough to warrant being killed nor heroic enough to idolize. Ranger Marcus Hamilton (three weeks from retirement) — Jeff Bridges in yet another winning role — is low-keyed in the style of Peter Falk's "Colombo," the bumbling yet incisive detective in the trench coat. Sidekick Alberto (Gil Birmingham) tells him: "I don't know how you're to survive without someone to outsmart." Over-the-hill Hamilton, of course, possesses his own array of quips, as in "sitting on the porch, practicing my future." This is a "talky" in the best sense.

Reviewed by: William Graebner and Dianne Bennett
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