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  • Writer's pictureRob Ervin

Rob Reviews "The Highwaymen"

Let’s just put it out there:

If you put Woody Harrelson and Kevin Costner together in a movie, you are already ahead of the curve. Make both of their characters Texans, and you hit that next level. Give Costner a gun and make him a former lawman while making Harrelson his former partner that just doesn’t seem right, and you are well on your way to a formula for success. And Netflix gets to reap the benefits.

John Lee Hancock, director of “The Founder” and “The Alamo” sticks with based-on-a-true-story films with “The Highwaymen,” with Costner and Harrelson playing Frank Hamer and Maney Gault respectively, the former Texas Rangers (not the baseball team) in the 1930s asked to come out of retirement to hunt down the infamous Bonnie & Clyde after Clyde Barrow escapes from prison and he and his gang go on a killing spree. Under the watchful eye of Governor Ma Ferguson (Kathy Bates), local and Federal law enforcement, and even the cult of personality that follows Bonnie & Clyde which gets in their way, they have to stretch the rules, stretch themselves, and even face the ghosts of their pasts for one more ride.

What I really dug about this film is how Bonnie & Clyde is able to become a background story to Hamer and Gault. John Fusco is able to write a script that reminds the audience where the end game is going to be but at the same time brings them on a journey of these two men over the more well-known story, with even the ancillary characters to the story getting more focus, like Joh Carroll Lynch as Lee Simmons, the man who convinces “Ma” to get the old guys back in there and a GREAT turn by William Sadler as Barrow’s father, whose scene with Costner’s Hamer is one that is worth bearing witness to alone. This is further enhanced by choices made by Hancock and cinematographer John Schwartzman to only reveal Bonnie Parker at the end of the film and Clyde bookending it, with everything in between long shots or shadowed appearance to keep the story focused where it needs to be. And a rich story is the best way to describe “The Highwaymen, with layer upon layer stacking one on top of the other into a tapestry of mystery, violence, and intrigue that had me just as frustrated as the two leads each time Parker and Barrow evaded their grasp. Partnered with the realization how the aforementioned cult of personality parallels our current society, this is a very well done film.

If there is a criticism with “The Highwaymen,” it is in its length. Sure, two hours and ten minutes are a lot easier to do in the living room than it is in a darkened auditorium, but it takes a bit of time to get its legs under it. Once it does, the story is off to the races, but there are about ten to fifteen minutes that could be trimmed back here. Overall, there is no way I could say in good conscience to not have this in your queue, but any place therein is a good one and make sure to get all of your snacks and stuff in place by the time you fire this film up to make sure you don’t miss a moment!

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