Film Review : The Highwaymen
Bonnie and Clyde have been on the road for two years.
Cold-blooded killers who are more adored than movie stars.
This has to stop.
Who doesn’t know Bonnie and Clyde? In 1930, this pre-war couple had nothing better to do than go down the path of crime and leave a trail of death and destruction in the US. This young couple was hunted by the police for two years. Until they were killed in an ambush where their escape car was riddled with thousands of bullets (so they claimed). Their victims were mainly banks and gas stations. And among the murdered victims were also a few police officers. This all took place during the turbulent 1930s when the economic crisis hit hard and many led a poor life. Perhaps that’s why both criminals were seen as heroes. Their outlaw life looked like an adventure after being romanticized. It appealed to everyone’s imagination. And because they wanted to hit the established order financially, they were worshiped like true pop idols. Their story took on mythical proportions. But who knows the authorities who put an end to this duo and their criminal life? And that’s what this film focuses on. The arm of the law from that time who, as old-fashioned bounty hunters, going after this gang.
It’s not just a Bonnie & Clyde movie.
If this were the umpteenth Bonnie & Clyde film (a whole series has already been made with the most famous one with Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway) I would have skipped it. But the fact that the story is looked at from a different angle and also that Kevin Costner and (especially) Woody Harrelson play the two Texas Rangers here, made it obvious I had to watch this film. Man, it’s always a pleasure to see an actor like Harrelson at work. Even though it’s a deadly serious role this time, he always manages to make me smile. However, things don’t get crackling in this film. But that is not due to the interpreters of the two main roles. The lack of action in this film (with the exception of a well-portrayed dusty pursuit and the ultimate ambush of course) will be a letdown for many.
Want to see Bonnie and Clyde? Bummer, they’re not often in the picture here.
The fact that Bonnie and Clyde barely enter the picture and the motive to become such a murderous couple isn’t explored in depth, may also be a disappointment for many. I think this was a conscious choice by director John Lee Hancock. He wanted to concentrate fully on the two Rangers who are chasing B&C. This way it felt as if nothing really happens during large parts of the film. For the most part, you’ll just witness dialogues between the two retired Rangers. They look like two washed up troublemakers who went too far as Texas Rangers in the past. From the outset, you have the impression that these were out of control cowboys who hold the motto “First shoot and then ask” as of paramount importance. Not that you get to see anything. You can only conclude this from what is being said by the hastily convened committee of dignitaries who are reasonably fed up with the violent life of B&C. And the anecdotes those two veterans tell sporadically.
The 30s vibe.
So it isn’t really action-packed and highly entertaining. In addition, you already know in advance how it will end. So you won’t be nibbling your fingernails to the skin because of the tension. However, if you are an avid fan of the 30s and the whole atmosphere that exuded that era, then you will enjoy watching this. The film perfectly portrays this era. The vintage cars from that time and clothing. But especially the spirit of these days is constantly palpable. In those years, the industrial revolution and technical progress was ready to explode. It was a time where social life was average and easy. But also the less pleasant side from that period (due to the recession) is shown in a brilliant way. The poor, impoverished neighborhoods and camps scattered here and there were characteristic of that time.
Excellent acting in this boring affair.
What remains is the acting of our two Texas Rangers. It goes without saying that the acting is of a high standard. What else did you expect from such star actors? If there’s one thing I enjoyed the most while watching this movie, it’s the interaction between them. The one is more grumpy and bitter than the other. And Woody struggles again with persistent alcohol addiction (just like in “The glass castle“). These two seasoned Rangers provide the necessary vibrancy and entertainment. But unfortunately, this is not enough to take the boring and slow “The Highwaymen” to a higher level. Daily life was perhaps nerve-racking and exciting to Bonnie & Clyde. And I can imagine they led a restless life while fleeing from one place to another. As energetic as their life was, so boring it was for their pursuers. And that trend continued in this film. Are you naturally impatient or you are in the midst of a period that requires a lot of energy so that you are constantly fighting fatigue? Well, then this film is definitely not recommended.
My rating 6/10
The Zone Of Interest Is A Bleak Reminder of the Horrors of Holocaust
The Zone of Interest is Jonathan Glazer’s latest feature loosely based on Martin Amis’ novel of the same name. It stars Christian Friedel and Sandra Huller in the lead roles. The German-language feature was a major breakout from the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, where it also won the Grand Prix award. It is based around one of the darkest chapters in human history and serves as an important reminder of how brutal and evil humans are capable of being.
Glazer is known for having carefully crafted frames with plenty of nuances which is the case here as well. He intricately designs each and every scene for maximum impact. Before we enter the first scene, the screen fades to black with a chilling score in the background that sets the viewer up for everything they are about to witness. Black is also the colour of evil which hints at what aspects of human nature this story will explore. The cinematography is also top-notch. The use of natural lighting works really well to complement the setting of a warm family atmosphere. Also, there are a few moments where the visual style changes and those scenes are thoughtfully captured as well.
Christian Friedel and Sandra Huller are both fantastic in their roles. Friedel is absolutely convincing as Rudolph Hoss, the commander of the Auschwitz concentration camps, and Huller plays his wife Hedwig, who steals a lot of scenes with her emotional range. The editing is also careful and patient. Each scene gets time to breathe and settle properly resulting in a lot of extended scenes of the daily life of the family. The background music is minimal, but whenever it kicks in, it makes sure to elevate the scenes with creepy and ominous sounds.
The plot may seem basic and simple on the surface level, but we gradually see the layers unfold as the narrative moves forward. The story gets darker and darker with time and can be utterly shocking and horrifying at times, especially in the third act. It is no doubt a slow burn In terms of its pacing and takes its own time to set things up and we keep getting to see more sides of the characters in the second half of the movie.
It is utterly shocking how a family man who reads his children bedtime stories and loves his wife wholeheartedly can do the things that Rudolph Hoss does. But that level of brutality and faithfulness to reality is among its biggest strengths. The movie doesn’t have too many weak aspects, but it is slow and takes a while to get going. Also, it will turn out to be difficult to follow or comprehend for general audiences and it might be difficult to follow for some. It demands patience and attention.
The Zone of Interest is a kind of movie that subtly and slowly horrifies you with its brutal and harrowing storytelling. Jonathan Glazer is at the top of his game. The lead performances are top notch and the conclusion leaves a heavy impact on the viewer. It won’t work for everyone, but will certainly find the appreciation it deserves.
The Zone of Interest will release in cinemas on December 8.
‘Past Lives’ Review: A Transcendent Cinematic Journey
Hollywood has a knack for producing extraordinary movies year after year, but there comes a time when the industry exceeds all expectations with a gem of a movie like ‘Past Lives.’ A mesmerizing film directed by the talented Celine Song takes audiences on an unparalleled journey of self-discovery and the exploration of our interconnectedness through time. This thought-provoking movie connects various lives, blurring the boundaries of reality and immersing viewers in a transcendental tale.
The romantic drama showcases Song’s remarkable storytelling ability, presenting a narrative that delicately balances emotion and intellect. ‘Past Lives’ starts with Hae Sung (Teo Yoo), Nora (Greta Lee), and Arthur (John Magaro) sitting at a bar. An unseen couple watches and tries to guess their relationship. We are taken back in time and get all the vital details about the relationship they have been sharing throughout various parts of their lives. One of the best aspects of the movie is how Son interconnects the lives of diverse characters across different periods and unveils the secrets that bind them together. The film’s nonlinear structure allows for a gripping exploration of multiple storylines, ensuring an engaging and enthralling experience.
Visually, ‘Past Lives’ is an absolute feast for the eyes. The poignant visuals heighten the emotional resonance of the narrative, leaving a lasting impression on the viewer. Accompanying the stunning visuals and sound design is an enchanting score that perfectly complements the film’s ethereal quality. Beyond its visual and musical splendor, the movie invites viewers to contemplate profound themes and philosophical questions. The film raises thought-provoking inquiries about the nature of existence, the way people’s lives are connected, and the impact of our actions across time. The script forces the moviegoers to reflect on the concept of destiny, choices, and the ripple effects they create.
Furthermore, the performances in ‘Past Lives’ are nothing short of extraordinary. The ensemble cast, led by seasoned actors, delivers nuanced and heartfelt portrayals, breathing life into their respective characters. Greta Lee is enchanting as Nora and delivers a performance that is undoubtedly going to give her all the buzz during the awards season. Meanwhile, Teo Yoo is just as brilliant. The talent on display evokes genuine empathy, enhancing the overall experience.
Even though the awards season is far away from where we are, we have already got a strong contender for Best Picture and top acting categories in the form of ‘Past Lives.’ It is quite rare these days to see a romantic story that provides such an immersive experience and we are glad that Celine Song’s film has given us a movie that makes us wonder why such romantic movies are not made anymore.
‘Past Lives’ is a modern masterpiece.
A Kind of Kidnapping – Dark Comedy with Politics
Written and directed by Dan Clark, this fairly star studded independent film follows a young couple who are stuck in a financial situation, and decide to kidnap a sleazy conservative politician in order to receive a ransom, that will allow them to escape their static lives.
Patrick Baladi (The Office) plays Hardy our creepy politician, Kelly Wenham (Double Date) plays Maggie, a complex woman who seemingly is always drawn to the “bad boy”, Jack Parry-Jones (The Crown) plays Brian our voice of reason within all of this, or is he?
The character development is well written and allows the space for character arcs, unlike a lot of small films, where there isn’t that room in the script. The three main leads feel very grounded and familiar, everyone knows someone like this in their life or perhaps public figures in the media.
The performances of the main three lead actors are great, if it wasn’t for them, I don’t think this film would work as well. Alongside the strong performances, the editing of the film helped to navigate this non-linear plot and allowed the film to peel aways the layers of backstory which all helped to create a stronger character driven piece.
As the film was nearing the final act, it felt as though it was dragging a little. Dan Clark mentioned in the Q&A after the screening how this was a short film before and I can definitely see how it could work in a confined setting really well. Maybe there was a bit of padding in second to third act to reach that feautre length requirement that didn’t aid certain character moments.
If you want to hear my full thoughts, the best thing to do is check out my review over on YouTube and let me know your thoughts in the comments.
When independent film is fighting for its life, A Kind of Kidnapping is the light in the dark. This is one of the better British produced indie films I’ve seen in a long time.
A Kind of Kidnapping is out on digital on 24th July on iTunes, Amazon, Google and Sky.
This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the [series/movie/etc] being covered here wouldn’t exist.
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