By Dave B.
In The Highwaymen (Netflix), Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson play Frank Hamer and Maney Gault, two over-the-hill former Texas Rangers credited with ending Bonnie and Clyde’s bloody rampage in 1934. While Hamer and Gault track the murderous couple, they confront their own blood-soaked pasts as they prepare for the final confrontation with their prey.
So, I’ve spoken to a few people who’ve watched The Highwaymen and the consensus seems to be that the 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde is much better and in fact, there are several better Bonnie and Clyde movies in existence. I can’t and don’t dispute that. But my view is that The Highwaymen isn’t really about Bonnie and Clyde at all. In The Highwaymen they serve as the backdrop to a story about two men who are grappling with being just as much killers as the criminals that they are called upon to stop. To me, that’s a more interesting story than any one about Bonnie and Clyde, who were (and still often are) idealized despite their gang’s heinous crimes.
That’s not to say that The Highwaymen is without significant flaws. At 132 minutes, it is (and feels) long. There isn’t much that actually happens in the film either. A car chase. A short fight. A short shootout or two. There isn’t much to break up the introspection that the movie wraps itself in. The performances of Costner and Harrelson are good (not great), but there are two things that really stand out for me when watching this film. First, I like the way that The Highwaymen shows how popular Bonnie and Clyde were, without condoning anything that they did. It’s a fine line and this movie walks it well. And secondly, The Highwaymen shows that people are monsters. All people, in various ways and at various times are capable of and engage in reprehensible behavior, whether for their perception of a greater good, or simply for their own amusement. It’s a message that appeals to me and frankly won me over, as I had been on the fence about this movie for a while.
Overall, The Highwaymen isn’t a great film. It’s slow pace and relative lack of plot are major problems that shouldn’t be overlooked. However, the things that are most important about a film are how you feel while watching it and how you feel looking back on it. On both of those counts, I can say that I enjoyed The Highwaymen, probably more than it deserves, and I recommend it because it’s solid performances help accentuate an interesting philosophical look at how the best of us and the worst of us are really only a couple of decisions (and a little bit of luck) removed from standing in the other’s shoes.
I have no clue what I'm doing, but I'll keep doing whatever it is to the best of my ability.