The Highwaymen Is Just Too Smug To Be Engaging


The  Highwaymen

Starring Kevin Costner, Woody Harrelsen

Directed  by  John Lee Hancock

Rating: **(2 stars)

 Take away  the  two still-charismatic veteran actors  in  the lead role, and  what have we got here?  A rambling meandering  Cowboy-Western  which is high on swag but really low  on  substance.

 The  Highwaymen must have sounded like a  swell premise  for a film.Two  retired  Texas rangers  in the 1930s are summoned  to  apprehend Bonnie & Clyde. Yes, the same outlawed  couple  whom  Warren  Beatty and  Faye Dunawayplayed  to immortal notoriety  in  the film Bonnie & Clyde.

 There  is  a difference, though.  This  time  in The Highwaymen we  look  at the  legend of Bonnie and Clyde  from the opposite perspective. We  only see them as shadowy criminals,nothing more while the  focus is  on the  pair of  actors who play the  law enforcers given  the  responsibility  of  nabbing the  couple before they create more  havoc and  grow more heroic  in the  eyes of  the public.

This is  America in  the  1930s. The well-mounted    film captures  the laconic violence  of  those times when  civil  rights were  not very clearly  marked  out. There  is  a  nice green-and-red feel to the  film where the aching acres of land  are   silhouetted  in the shadows  of violence.

 The  rest  of  the  film relies  almost completely  on  the  chemistry  between  Costner  and  Harrelson.  Both the actors are in brilliant unharnessed form, though Harrelson was far more powerful and moving in  the recent  in Three Billboards  Outside Ebbing, Missourie. Here  in  Highwaymen he is  required to  tail Costner  who  makes a comeback after a hiatus. And  a welcome  one that .

 Seen as a vehicle  for two of America’s finest  veteran actor The Highwaymen  works fine up to a point. But then   the minute the  plot begins to explore in some  detail the relationship between Hamer(Costner) and Gault(Harrelson) and the way they respond to  the violence  that gripped America’s  psyche from the Days  of the Wild Wild West, the  film begins to come apart at  the seams.

 There are  many uncomfortable passages in  the plot.  Serious  debate  points  such as  the open sales of arms in  the US and  the  ethics of gunning down a woman  outlaw, seem  to appear   unscheduled  in the narrative. In the final  reckoning The Highwaymen creates no real impact  outside its  cops-and-robbers aspirations. There is so much that could’ve been felt and  expressed   about the evolution of  the culture of  the heroic outlaw in America  over the years. All we see is two swift  gunmen played by actors who remain relevant in  their 60, giving  the audience a  good   time in  a film that John Wayne  would have enjoyed.

 I  am  not sure about Clint Eastwood.

It  is  relevant that this film demystifies Bonnie and Clyde during the same week that Warren  Beatty(who played Clyde) turns  82. The  legend  lives on.

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