Published on March 29th, 2019 | by Dan Nicholls0
The Highwaymen pairs two good leads in Costner and Harrelson, for a film that is worth watching, though isn’t brilliantly reinventing any genres or anything.
The constantly churning Netflix machine has produced another proprietary motion picture to stream all their own. The Highwaymen takes the familiar story of Bonnie and Clyde – the unhinged couple who robbed and murdered their way through the lower states in the 1930s – but tells it from the other side of the law. The true story of the Texas Rangers brought out of retirement to track down the infamous bandits gets its due in an elegantly produced, entertaining buddy cop drama. It might get kneecapped by some storytelling and directorial limitations but it’s ultimately solidly enjoyable.
Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson star as Frank Hamer and Maney Gault, respectively. They’re past their prime and spinning their wheels in retirement when Ma (Kathy Bates) extends the offer to take justice back the old school way. The duo hit the highway following the trail of crime and find themselves always just a slight step behind. Despite the fact that we all know where this story leads The Highwaymen still manages to ratchet up excitement and suspense as we approach ‘that moment.’
Costner’s gruff Hamer and Harrelson’s softie Gault pair excellently with each other; if there’s one undeniable takeaway from the film it’s that the two stars make for a fantastic onscreen team, it would be great to see them act together again in the future. They aren’t served well, though, by a few stretches that run a little long and thin on substance, feeling like excess attributing a few too many minutes to the runtime.
After dozens are laid dead in the streets people still championed these murderers – a post script mentions the ungodly number of attendees Bonnie and Clyde’s separate funerals garnered. Perhaps The Highwaymen might come across a bit too much like your father telling you to stop playing video games and turn that damn music down, but it means well. Given the North American propensity to perpetuate stories of violence and its perpetrators maybe it’s a lesson that could’ve been yelled a little louder. A particular scene after the climax briefly sobers you up with disturbing imagery of a mob of people absolutely losing their shit at seeing the bullet-riddled vehicle. It resonates more grotesquely when archival footage of the real scene reveals it to be an accurate recreation.
We won’t be discussing The Highwaymen as Netflix’s next big hope for the Oscars in 2020. But the film is a solid example to follow for future productions – name-draw character actors, easily digestible concept, just enough substance to make it feel like a movie and not “streaming television.” It’s slick, well-acted, and fun enough to warrant a spot in the Watch Again row.