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Movie Review: “The Highwaymen”

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

Netflix Release: 3/29/2019

Netflix Release: 3/29/2019

Synopsis

Bonnie and Clyde have been on a crime streak that has made them famous by both civilians and law enforcement. By stealing almost exclusively from the wealthy and the banks, the general public does not seem to care very much if they get caught. Many civilians even idolize the duo, but they have killed many members of law enforcement along the way, and they absolutely must be stopped. The Texas government is desperate to bring Bonnie and Clyde down, so they reinstate the Texas Ranger program and put two veteran Texas Rangers on Bonnie and Clyde’s tail.

Frank Hamer (Kevin Costner) made a name for himself as a ruthless gunslinger during his time as a Texas Ranger, but that was when he was in his prime. Now, he is reluctant to put himself back into the action, as his reflexes are not what they once were, but he cannot simply stand by as innocent men continue to be gunned down for trying to do their job. Maney Gault (Woody Harrelson) was once Frank’s trusted partner. A skilled former Texas Ranger in his own right, Maney is eager to ride alongside his old friend one last time to do what they do best, hunt down outlaws.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

Kevin Costner & Woody Harrelson (+6pts)

The Intro (-2pts)

Focus (+5pts)

Bonnie & Clyde (-3pts)

Texas Rangers vs. Modern Law Enforcement (+3pts)

The Climax (-4pts)

movie-review-the-highwaymen

Pro: Kevin Costner & Woody Harrelson (+6pts)

Both Frank and Maney were compelling characters. They each went on this mission for different reasons, but they shared a history with one another, a history that I very much felt as a viewer. Their motivations made them feel real, fleshed out characters, and their shared history made them fun to watch interacting with one another. The characters were written well, but it was the actors in these roles that made the characters so compelling.

I explained each character’s motivations in the synopsis, so I will not repeat them here. Kevin Costner did a great job of playing into his character’s reluctance and sense of duty. Woody Harrelson did a great job of playing into his character’s eagerness to relive the good old days. Both actors have become known for their strong performances, and they unsurprisingly brought strong performances to this movie, but they also had pretty good chemistry together. They had an almost big brother and little brother vibe that—when mixed with a couple of strong performances—made these characters pretty entertaining to watch.

movie-review-the-highwaymen

Con: The Intro (-2pts)

I liked the storyline of the Texas Rangers having been disbanded, only to be reinstated in a desperate attempt to catch Bonnie and Clyde. It made Bonnie and Clyde feel more dangerous because it showed how desperate the Texas government was to catch them. That being said, I did not think the filmmakers had enough time to flesh this out properly, while also setting up the two main characters. Trying to set all of this up, in addition to setting up the main characters as well as the threat of Bonnie and Clyde, made the beginning of the story feel pretty slow and uneventful. Being on Netflix, I honestly do not know why they did not make this a limited series. In a limited series, the filmmakers could have fleshed out the main characters, set up the desperation of local government, and set up Bonnie and Clyde properly. By trying to do all of this in the beginning of a two hour movie, they ended up having to rush each of these storylines.

movie-review-the-highwaymen

Pro: Focus (+5pts)

I do not really have a lot to say here, but I liked that the focus of this movie was fixed on Frank and Maney. This story has been told, too many times, in a way that has glorified the murderers. By focusing on the Texas Rangers, the filmmakers accurately portrayed Bonnie and Clyde as the villains that they were. Frank and Maney were this story’s heroes, so it was important to tell this story in a way that emphasized that. It gave a new, realistic perspective to a story that we have all heard before. Instead of glorifying the people who did terrible things, this movie glorified the men who risked their lives to bring justice to the bad guys.

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Con: Bonnie & Clyde (-3pts)

I know that I literally just said that I liked the filmmakers' decision not to focus on Bonnie and Clyde in this movie. However, there is a difference between not focusing on something, and leaving it out of the story all together. The filmmakers treated Bonnie and Clyde as an after thought, which made them feel like underdeveloped side characters, as opposed to the antagonists that they clearly should have been. I liked that the Texas Rangers were very obviously the protagonists of this story, but giving Bonnie and Clyde more development and more screen time would have added a lot more tension to this story. Instead, it felt like the movie was missing something.

movie-review-the-highwaymen

Pro: Texas Rangers vs. Modern Law Enforcement (+3pts)

One aspect of this movie that I enjoyed was the feud between the Texas Rangers and local law enforcement. The Texas Rangers were old school. They tracked their targets using their experience, their wits, and their understanding of their targets. The members of local law enforcement were new school. They tracked their enemies using phone taps, radio communication, and their forensic crime scene unit.

I liked this little competition of seeing whose methods would work the best, as it added a fun little extra layer to this story. At the end of the day, experience has to be the biggest factor regardless of the methods used, but I enjoyed seeing these different methods clashing with one another, and I enjoyed seeing how both sides thought less of the other because of their strategy. One side thought that the other relied too heavily on technology. The other side thought the first used primitive methods. Both methods may have been needed to catch Bonnie and Clyde, but I thought this competitive storyline was pretty entertaining.

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Con: The Climax (-4pts)

The climax of this movie ended up feeling pretty anti-climactic. There were two main contributing factors to this. The first was that Bonnie and Clyde got very little development, so the climax only had tension from one side of the story. The second reason was simply how it all played out.

The ending just felt too easy for the protagonists, especially when you consider all the build up that led to this scene. The ending of this story, more than anything else, was the reason why I think this story should have been a limited series. Taking the time to develop Bonnie and Clyde’s story, in addition to developing the Texas Ranger’s story, would have made for a far more compelling conclusion, as we would have been following both pairs of characters approaching this boiling point. Instead, it felt one-sided, hollow, and it concluded this movie with a whimper.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

movie-review-the-highwaymen

Grade: B- (80pts)

It was refreshing to see a story about Bonnie and Clyde that did not focus on or glorify Bonnie and Clyde. The filmmakers of this movie chose to focus on the real heroes of that story, the two Texas Rangers who hunted the dangerous outlaws. I enjoyed the two characters of Frank and Maney, and I thought Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson did a fantastic job with their respective roles. Unfortunately, the filmmakers seemed to ignore Bonnie and Clyde all together.

Bonnie and Clyde were definitely underdeveloped, and I thought this hurt the movie in two ways. The first was that it felt like the story was missing a true antagonist all throughout the rising action. The second was that the climax of the movie was missing the tension and impact that it needed. Fortunately, the two main characters had compelling stories, as well as great actors giving great performances. The Highwaymen had some problems, but the stories behind the two main characters, in addition to the actors playing them, made this a movie that I enjoyed watching.

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