The Highwaymen


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

The Highwaymen
"The title suggests derring-do, when No Country For Grumpy Old Men would better set the mood." | Photo: Netflix

The title suggests derring-do, when No Country For Grumpy Old Men would better set the mood for this Netflix Original. Perhaps it's the Texas heat but everything has slowed to a crawl in this tale of two Texas Rangers who come out of retirement to catch up with the infamous Bonnie and Clyde. It's perhaps just as well to watch it in the comfort of your own home, where you can watch the action in multiple sittings if you prefer, little in terms of tension will be lost.

Flipping the glamour of Arthur Penn's Warren Beatty/Faye Dunaway film on its head, John Lee Hancock's film, written by John Fusco, treats the pair as it might a couple of B-movie monsters, only showing them in glimpses - a shoe here, a hand on a steering wheel there - or from a distance.

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What fun there is to be had is in the rumpled pairing of Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson as ageing duo Frank Hamer and Maney Gaunt, who go on the hunt for the deadly duo. Costner is all crumpled righteousness - a look that, it must be said, suits him - while Harrelson is on hand for a bit of Jiminy Cricket conscience-wringing and prostate-troubled comedy. Kathy Bates and Kim Dickens also deserve a shoutout for doing quite a lot with very little.

But this is a firmly old school and largely male affair, with everything modern - from fingerprinting to the radio considered with contempt. Unfortunately, this doesn't merely seem to be the perspective of the protagonists but also the writer and director, whose view of women is dubious to say the least. Bonnie is portrayed as the worst of the pair, indiscriminately strafing woodland, shooting someone at point-blank range while Clyde, more ridiculously, seems to prefer playing saxophone in silhouette against the dying light of the day.

It's not that Bonnie is portrayed as the killer she was but that the filmmakers seem to think this is made all the worse simply because she is a woman. Earlier in the film, too, Frank is shown almost being run off the road by a car filled to the brim - including the boot - with young women. You can't help feeling Fusco thinks it would have been better if they'd stayed by the kitchen sink. This attitude lessens the impact of the film's more interesting asides about the nature of pop culture, suggesting the media circus that sprang up around Bonnie and Clyde led to a fashion trend for berets and more. The Statler and Waldorf treatment and the film's reverence towards its characters' retrograde views means you can't help feeling John Fusco's manifesto is: "You can't trust the kids of today, they'll glamorise anything."

Reviewed on: 25 Mar 2019
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The story of Bonnie & Clyde as seen through the eyes of a pair of Texas Rangers on the hunt for them.
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