Running time: 1 hour 43 minutes
Director: David Mackenzie
Cast: Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Jeff Bridges, Gil Birmingham
To be completely honest, I watched this mostly because it was nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars and because of Chris Pine. I am not a fan of Westerns or cowboys because it all seems uninteresting and generic and just too male-dominated. I can’t say that I dislike this film, but it goes into my basket of ‘just average’ films. It was entertaining enough for me to watch through it all, but something that I quickly forgot and won’t be watching again.
It basically tells a story of these two brothers, Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster), who rob banks, not because they are hardened criminals (although one of them is an ex-con), but because they want to save their mother’s ranch. She recently passed away and before she died, she had reverse mortgaged her house (which from my uni studies is something that should never be sold to old, naive, desperate people), meaning that unless it was paid off, the bank would then own the ranch. However, Toby discovered oil on the property and therefore is determined to keep it, to allow his boys and wife to live a better life than he did. So through this selfless motive, Toby and Tanner carefully plan to rob the very bank which is currently holding them hostage: Texas Midlands Bank. And so this essentially becomes a western-version of Robin Hood. Steal from the rich (the bank) and give to the poor and needy (themselves, or rather, their families). In their minds, it’s not technically stealing of course. The bank ‘robbed’ them of money, so they’re just taking back what is rightfully theirs. In my opinion, this is what seems to separate the film from others in the genre, and this is what they present to the audience. In a sense, it’s also a more modern version of your typical Western, with cars instead of horses. Other than this, everything is pretty cliche to me. Holding up banks with masks on their faces, police rangers on their tail, a dramatic shoot-out in the bush. Maybe it’s just me, but everything felt pretty ordinary so I’m not quite sure what made it stand out in order to be included in the Best Picture category. I might be missing something.
The acting is all solid. The lead four characters are well cast and deliver convincing performances. Only Jeff Bridges was nominated for an Oscar. He was good but then again, it’s a safe role for him. I thought Ben Foster’s performance was much better. He plays a complicated character. He’s not necessarily a bad guy, even though he has a criminal record, but he’s not the good guy either. He doesn’t have much regard for the law and breaking it, but he’s willing to sacrifice his life for his brother and his family. It’s a multi-layered role which he executes really well.
Overall, if you like Westerns or good looking rugged guys, then it’s worth watching. Otherwise, there’s much better films out there.