No Dick Turpin, or Black Bess
Apparently in yank-land a highwayman is a police patrol officer. The highwaymen of this title are Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson, ex-Texas rangers Hamer and Gault recalled to bring down the outlaws Bonnie and Clyde.
This is very much the story of those two men and not the story of Bonnie and Clyde – and that’s okay when those two men are played by such luminaries as Coster and Harrelson. As you’d expect the acting is more than proficient and occasionally the script realises some true emotional depth from both actors. In truth I wish those moments happened more often and particularly between the two men – there’s a slightly odd void between them when they appear on-screen together.
The cinematography depicts a realistic 1930s dust-bowl America – as beautiful in its desolation as it is dreadful for its poverty-ridden populace – providing a gorgeous backdrop for the film to take place in. The other actors in the film have been well cast too, there’s a particularly feisty Kathy Bates as Ma Ferguson, twice elected Governor of Texas.
This isn’t an area of history I know much about so can’t speak for the accuracy of the story – it seems to roughly concur with what I know of the previous films and odd documentary I’ve seen. This was a highly personal tracking of a criminal gang – Hamer and Gault were living out of Hamer’s private car and only occasionally using local police to help them. That and the poverty of the era that brought about such criminal heroes were my favourite part of the film.
It perhaps goes some way to help explain and bring home the brutality of modern day America – in the form of the people, criminals and authority – and where that broken society came from.
I watched The Highwaymen on Netflix in the UK, who are the people who made the film.