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» Film-Tech Forum   » Community   » Film Handlers' Movie Reviews   » Hell or High Water (2016)

   
Author Topic: Hell or High Water (2016)
Mark Ogden
Jedi Master Film Handler

Posts: 882
From: Little Falls, N.J.
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 08-22-2016 06:37 PM      Profile for Mark Ogden   Email Mark Ogden   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Two Texas brothers pull off a string of bank robberies targeting the branches of a specific bank, which piques the interest of a soon-to-be-retired Texas Ranger. At the AMC Garden State 16, Paramus, New Jersey.

*****

This seriocomic movie, more than anything else, seems to be a commentary on the economy of West Texas, which I gather is not very good. The flat landscape is dotted with abandoned refineries, shuttered gas stations and ruined businesses, and some other things: billboards for payday loan services, debt consolidators and other predatory financial schemes. In fact, it develops pretty early in the movie that the two bank robbing brothers have singled out the branches of the bank that holds a shady reverse mortgage on their late mother’s ranch. None of their fellow Texans seem to care, the general consensus being that the banks have it coming to them for the way they have exploited the difficult finances of their customers. You might say that this kind of thing is even expected, based on a scene in which the branch manager of a competing bank happily accepts money from the brothers that he seems to know has been stolen. “It’s the Texas thing to do”, he says, while shaking their hands righteously.

This is a pretty amazing movie that has you rooting for the two brothers, and not so much the grizzled old Ranger that is after them with his exasperated partner along for the ride. That is, you root for them up to a point: one of the brothers is not like the other, and is more of a career criminal in it for the rush rather than the economic justice. He is also not one for sticking to the program, which sets up a violent last act where which side you are cheering for may change pretty drastically.

The picture is very well made with excellent performances by the entire cast, and I recommend it. I might also point out that it has the single funniest scene in any movie I’ve seen all year: an attempt by the Rangers to order dinner from a cantankerous old waitress in a restaurant that has a very limited menu. The audience was rolling.

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Leo Enticknap
Film God

Posts: 7034
From: Loma Linda, CA
Registered: Jul 2000


 - posted 08-22-2016 06:58 PM      Profile for Leo Enticknap   Author's Homepage   Email Leo Enticknap   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I really enjoyed it, too, for all the reasons you give. Agreed that it isn't exactly positive PR for the region in which it's set, any more than I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang is for the Deep South, or The Wicker Man for Scotland (or even, dare I mention it, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre...).

There's a book or a doctoral dissertation to be done by someone on unflattering depictions of remote and/or rural places in movies.

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Bobby Henderson
"Ask me about Trajan."

Posts: 10701
From: Lawton, OK, USA
Registered: Apr 2001


 - posted 01-05-2017 06:43 PM      Profile for Bobby Henderson   Email Bobby Henderson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I figured I'd bump this since Hell or High Water picked up a Writers Guild award nomination. I rented a copy of it on Blu-ray from the last video store here in Lawton. I thought Hell or High Water was a good "neo-western." Some of the themes are laid on a bit thick, but the movie probably wouldn't give off such a genre vibe without doing so.

One thing I did not like: the movie's geography was complete bullshit.

This chronic issue in movies is a big pet peeve of mine, especially these days. "Filmmakers" have all sorts of advanced production and post production tools at their disposal. The least thing they could do is actually put forth some effort with those tools. They need to at least try in some way to make their phony production locations match up with the story locations they're attempting to depict.

Hell or High Water is supposedly set in the "Texoma" region of the US where I live. I can promise you won't see rows of tall, jagged peaks on the horizon when visiting West Texas towns like Childress. The Wichita Mountains just North of Lawton and Fort Sill are the only mountains in this region. And they look like little hills compared to the Front Range of the Rockies.

West Texas, Southwest Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle all have plenty of interesting terrain. Every scene in Hell or High Water could have been shot in these parts. I guess the production crew didn't want to be more than a 3 or 4 hour drive from "Hollywood East" (Santa Fe).

Another movie with Jeff Bridges, The Last Picture Show, was set in this region. Unlike so many other movies this production was authentic with its geography. Most of it was shot in Archer City, which is a short drive South of Wichita Falls. Other nearby towns like Olney and Holliday were also featured in the production. IIRC, the production ventured into Oklahoma a little bit too. Writer Larry McMurtry grew up in Archer City and has a book store there. I guess he had some influence with Peter Bogdonavich and studio brass to shoot The Last Picture Show there rather than do it on some Hollywood studio back lot.

quote: Leo Enticknap
I really enjoyed it, too, for all the reasons you give. Agreed that it isn't exactly positive PR for the region in which it's set, any more than I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang is for the Deep South, or The Wicker Man for Scotland (or even, dare I mention it, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre...).
Hell or High Water tried to have Eastern New Mexico towns like Tucumcari, Clovis and Portales double as the Texas towns mentioned in the movie. Clovis isn't the best looking town, but it's a great place for watching freight trains. Most cities or towns have at least one or more areas that are run down and blighted looking. The "oil patch" in New Mexico adds another very industrial flavor to it. My home town is Artesia, New Mexico. The downtown area of that town is beautiful. But there's a huge oil refinery across the railroad tracks and East of town the hills are so filled with pump jacks and other oil infrastructure it looks like a landscape from an Id Software sci-fi horror video game.

I also suspect some digital manipulation to add more visual despair. For instance, billboard faces are an easy target for a different message to be superimposed. There is no shortage of pawn shops or pay day loans companies around here, but I haven't seen any buy billboard ads.

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Jonathan Goeldner
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1330
From: Washington, District of Columbia
Registered: Jun 2008


 - posted 01-05-2017 10:08 PM      Profile for Jonathan Goeldner   Email Jonathan Goeldner   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
in my top ten favourites of 2016 - I could have watched Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham all day long.

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Kristo Nalo
Film Handler

Posts: 24
From: Skopje, MK, MK, Macedonia
Registered: Nov 2016


 - posted 01-05-2017 11:43 PM      Profile for Kristo Nalo   Email Kristo Nalo   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
That movie is one of the top movies in 2016 and I really love this movie.

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Jim Cassedy
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1553
From: San Francisco, CA
Registered: Dec 2006


 - posted 01-08-2017 09:36 AM      Profile for Jim Cassedy   Email Jim Cassedy   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I ran this movie several times before it was released, but never watched
it until after reading the comments here, and, just by coincidence, it was
one of the 3 "Academy" screenings I was running yesterday.

I wound up liking it- - more than I thought I would. Even recommended it
to a friend I saw last night who I knew would like it too.

Bobby- - I feel your pain about 'location discrepancies."
I'm the same way about the geographical BS I see in movies or TV shows that
supposedly take place in San Francisco, but were obviously shot on a Hollywood
back-lot or in some city up in Canada.
(Absolutely nothing wrong with Canada, but it ain't San Francisco!) [Smile]

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Bobby Henderson
"Ask me about Trajan."

Posts: 10701
From: Lawton, OK, USA
Registered: Apr 2001


 - posted 01-08-2017 05:38 PM      Profile for Bobby Henderson   Email Bobby Henderson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Jim Cassedy
Bobby- - I feel your pain about 'location discrepancies."
I'm the same way about the geographical BS I see in movies or TV shows that
supposedly take place in San Francisco, but were obviously shot on a Hollywood
back-lot or in some city up in Canada.

The "filmmakers" or other higher-ups deciding the issue assume no one is going to notice the location geography issue. Or maybe they don't care if anyone does notice. Nevertheless it ends up making the movie look pretty stupid in terms of the dramatic world they're trying to create for an audience.

Big city continuity errors are widespread in movies. Like you said, there's the common tactic of making Canadian cities like Vancouver or Toronto double for American cities like New York City and San Francisco. I guess none of the millions who live in the SF Bay or NYC areas would notice something is wrong. Likewise, I'm sure the millions who live in the Vancouver or Toronto areas get a laugh out of seeing familiar locations pop up in stories that don't take place there. The Saving Grace TV series with Holly Hunter was supposedly set in Oklahoma City; only a few pieces of B-roll were actually shot in OKC. The opening sequence of X-Files: Fight the Future supposedly took place in downtown Dallas. But it was easy to see they shot the piece in the Century City part of Los Angeles. Even the "Die Hard Building" appeared in some of the shots. The choice of lying about location seemed pretty strange considering a decent number of contemporary movies have been shot in Dallas. Robocop used the Dallas skyline as a stand-in for a future Detroit.

Some of the visual choices of location in Hell or High Water seem pretty forced. I think at least a couple or more key people in the production deliberately wanted scenes of big mountains on the horizon, despite it being a total lie for Texoma geography. "But Westerns are supposed to have big mountains in them!" At that point they might as well have worked in some buttes from Monument Valley, just like The Searchers did back in the 1950's. That's another movie that took place in North Texas, Oklahoma and upper parts of the Great Plains.

Modern technology makes these movie location goofs much worse. Everybody has instant access to things like Google Maps, Google Earth and the Street View feature in it. Microsoft has it's own competing Bing Maps competitor. And I guess Apple is still doing something with its own maps application. You can use these apps to sight-see locations of interest all over the world -at least any place where they'll let Google's cars drive around snapping photos. It's very easy to pull up locations where movie scenes were actually filmed. It's also very easy to pull locations where movies were supposed to be filmed, but were not and be able to see the phony difference.

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