As the Netflix juggernaut thunders into view again, this time it takes on the much written-about Bonnie & Clyde story, though this time it’s told from the perspective of those that eventually hunted them down and killed the outlaws.
The Highwayman is another, long, slow, drawn-out movie (there seems to be a pattern emerging recently for long, slow, drawn-out movies) that looks amazing. The cinematography and directing, the latter from John Lee Hancock (“Saving Mr. Banks”, “The Rookie”) who, with a name like that, could only ever direct something like this, are beautiful.
The story though, that’s a different matter. It’s not quite detailed enough to be truly different to most other Bonnie & Clyde stories we’ve seen beforehand. In fact, there were a few occasions when I felt like I’d seen the film before, it was an uncanny feeling.
It’s also incredibly familiar, whilst there are a few references to other Harrelson and Costner movies, there was just something about the whole feel and vibe of the movie that makes it feel like you’ve seen it before, not just that you’ve seen movies about the same subject, but that you’ve actually seen this movie before.
Kevin Costner (“Molly’s Game”, “Batman V Superman”) is Frank Hamer, a former Texas Ranger who, under the new governor Ma, Kathy Bates (“Bad Santa 2”, “Misery”), is forcibly retired, when the Ranger’s are disbanded.
However, Ma and the rest of the law are struggling to catch the notorious outlaws Bonnie & Clyde and so, reluctantly, Ma follows the advice of Lee Simmons, John Carroll Lynch (“The Founder”, “Jackie”), and hires Hamer to track the outlaws down.
Hamer needs help and turns to another former Ranger in Maney Gault, Woody Harrelson (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”, “War For The Planet Of The Apes”), who is living with his daughter and struggling to find work.
Together, the pair head off across America to track down the infamous duo, Bonnie & Clyde, whilst facing an unwelcome set of police already on the case and a general public who hero-worshipped the outlaws like nothing that’s been seen before or since.
Both Harrelson and Costner are great in their respective roles, Costner is the straight-faced serious one, whilst Harrelson brings some light relief to proceedings with the occasional quips and bad singing and Kathy Bates is wonderful as Ma (she should really be in a lot more movies).
You don’t get to see Bonnie & Clyde, only from long-shots or close-ups of Bonnie as she drags her injured leg across the dirt to blow some police officers head-off! It’s a nice touch, not the blowing of the head, I mean the not seeing Bonnie & Clyde. It makes you fully aware that this is about our two former Rangers.
The story is based on reality, the end credits showing some old photos and video footage from the funerals and the car the duo were in when they were killed, and Hancock apparently went to great lengths to ensure it was as true as he could see.
But you can’t escape the feeling you’re seen it all before, as good it is, it’s just not different enough to truly stand out. Which is a shame.
29th March 2019
John Lee Hancock
THE QUICK SELL
A pair of Texas Rangers come out of retirement to catch the infamous outlaws Bonnie and Clyde.