25 August 2016

Hell or High Water

I was provoked by this review of the movie Hell or High Water by Richard Brody. In the same review, he wrote about War Dogs, which I have not seen and know nothing about (as opposed to Hell or High Water, which I saw and admired); he says both movies demonstrate "exemplary badness." What he means by this seems to be that they are clockwork entertainments, not a piece out of place, predictable in certain ways, and without eccentricity (except the couple he identifies and immediately discounts). He seems to be criticizing them for being overwritten, too driven by their (good) intentions, failing to give their performers room to create.

He puts these movies in the same category with The Big Short and Spotlight, two of my favorite of 2015--which also happen to be movies with missions.  I didn't see Hell or High Water as a movie with a mission; just a caper with a satisfying backdrop and a satisfying emotional hook.

Unlike Brody, I didn't find the actors' performances incapacious (Brody is careful to make an exception for Jeff Bridges--everybody adores Jeff Bridges); most of them succeeded in intriguing me. Throughout the movie I found myself nodding at the dialogue, thinking to myself, This guy can write.

Maybe that means the movie was overwritten, but it was pleasurably overwritten. I feel that way about some of the Coen brothers movies, too; certainly about Mamet movies,

I feel funny writing enthusiastically about a movie that, I admit, isn't great. But I do think it is good.  That is, it tells an interesting story well. It engages and transports the viewer. I agree that Jeff Bridges is outstanding in it. He has such a charismatic presence that he's outstanding in everything; like the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, or the living Mark Rylance, when he's on screen, he's all you want to pay attention to. But unlike some movies I can recall--in which, when the charismatic actor left the screen I wanted to leave the theater--I remained invested in the film even when the story turned to the two brothers played by Chris Pine and Ben Foster.

While Brody's review of these films objects to their overt politics, a few months ago I came across another negative Brody review of a movie I liked, The Lobster, which criticized it for the opposite reason: he seemed to think a Greek director had no business making a movie that failed to reflect the Greek political situation.

I guess I just am not going to agree with this critic.