Review: The Highwaymen (2019)

The Highwaymen (2019)

Directed by: John Lee Hancock | 132 minutes | biography, crime | Actors: Kevin Costner, Woody Harrelson, Kathy Bates, John Carroll Lynch, Thomas Mann, Dean Denton, Kim Dickens, William Sadler, W. Earl Brown

The crime career of the infamous duo Bonnie and Clyde was short but sweet. Between 1930 and 1934, they robbed banks, shot cops and cultivated their existence as romantic Robin Hoods. The latter in particular ensured that their name, despite all those dead cops, only gained popularity in the decades that followed. Especially in the 60s, the time of freedom-loving and anti-authoritarian hippies. It resulted in films, heroic ballads and a complete library of books.

Almost a century later, it is time to show the other side of the story, that of the authorities. In the American crime drama ‘The Highwaymen’, we follow two sidelined Texas Rangers in their quest to take out Bonnie and Clyde’s gang. In addition, Bonnie and Clyde are not presented as a rough love couple but as derailed psychopaths who kill innocent people.

The result is a film that in terms of story and tone is reminiscent of Clint Eastwood’s later work and of his classic western ‘Unforgiven’. In that film, too, two veterans set out in the name of justice, and dubious myths are also dealt with in that film. In ‘The Highwaymen’ not only the myth of Bonnie and Clyde is shattered, but also that of the brave Texas Rangers.

Despite the fact that the true story has no surprises, the film has plenty to offer. First of all, the decor. America in the 1930s was the time of the great depression, when entire families from the south of the US set out in search of a better life. There is something biblical about that period, which is also reflected in books such as ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ and series such as ‘Carnivàle’. In ‘The Highwaymen’ we also see migrants, drought, poverty and hopelessness. And it was precisely those terrible circumstances that made Bonnie and Clyde something of a hero in a time of crisis.

All this makes for a nice crime drama, with veterans Kevin Coster and Woody Harrelson in the main roles. The film has a suitably slow pace, nice and tight photography, has some nice humor (also a la Clint) and does everything you expect from it. Great film in the genre, the only downside is that this genre has become a bit stale in the meantime.

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