Wednesday, 21 September 2016

REVIEW - HELL OR HIGH WATER (DAVID MACKENZIE)


You'll find plenty high praise for David MacKenzie's Hell or High Water elsewhere, but not here. All that I could expect from a modern-day crime Western, it delivers - no more, no less. As this genre is designed to do, MacKenzie's film, from Taylor Sheridan's script, satisfies one's every desire in what it ought to accomplish, and its proficiency is regarded as adequate justification for its existence. So Hell or High Water is consistently engaging, never surprising, characterized by both a lack of true ambition and its relative success within its modest aspirations. Crime dramas with social consciences are a dime a dozen these days, but it's interesting to gauge the juxtaposition of this sense of moral responsibility with the usual codes of Westerns - Sheridan's apolitical approach is a wise, appropriate one, and he possesses a fine skill for courting offence without actually causing it. Between his dialogue, Gilles Nuttgens' handsome cinematography, and the vibrant, unfussy work of the whole ensemble (with the usual exception of an over-acting Ben Foster), Hell or High Water marks a cumulative effort to cut a film entirely from 'local colour,' and it's a strong effort. And yet, for all that its makers may be wise to every last detail of rural Texan landscape and character, this quality produces a film that's perfectly functional, but nothing else. I reserve high praise for high achievement only, and it's thus that Hell or High Water appears a little lowly.