Pros: An unusual look at a well-known story; performance by Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson; atmosphere of Coen brothers films Cons: General slowness of the picture; lack of action episodes The Highwaymen / “Patrolmen”
Genre crime drama
Directed by John Lee Hancock
Cast: Kevin Costner (Frank Hamer), Woody Harrelson (Many Gault), Kathy Bates (Miriam “Ma” Ferguson), John Carroll Lynch (Lee Simmons), Thomas Mann (Ted Hinton), Dean Denton (Bob Alcorn), Kim Dickens (Gladys Hamer), William Sadler (Henry Barrow), etc.
Casey Silver Productions, Netflix
Year of release 2019
Netflix, as a rule, does not give its films and series titles in other languages, so the translations of the title The Highwaymen as “Chasing Bonnie and Clyde” and “The Highwaymen” are nothing more than amateur performances. Yes, the direct and only translation of the word highwaymen is highwaymen, but in this case this word means the opposite – highway patrolmen. Highwaymen – this is the temporary title that former Texas Rangers Frank Hamer and Many Gault received when they agreed to take on the capture of Bonnie and Clyde, who had already killed at least six police officers and several civilians.
The fact is that during the hunt for Bonnie and Clyde, and this is 1932-34, the Institute of Texas Rangers had already been dissolved, and Hamer and Gault, the most famous of them, retired. Following the success of the mission, the Texas Rangers were revived and still exist today as a division of the Texas Department of Public Safety, dedicated to investigating criminal offenses, capturing wanted criminals, etc. Many Gault returned to duty and remained a Texas Ranger until his death in 1947. But Francis Augustus Hamer, the most famous Texas Ranger of all time, personally killed from 53 to 70 criminals, was wounded 17 times and left for dead four times (where is the “Survivor” “), retired and worked for private companies.
Frank Hamer and Many Gault were relics of another era, that same wild Wild West that by 1932 had already faded away. The investigation of high-profile crimes was carried out by FBI agents (then simply BR) in powerful vehicles equipped with radio stations; the criminals were tracked using airplanes and the use of wiretapping (1932!). Many modern forensic techniques were used. At the same time, Hamer and Gault trusted more in their understanding of criminal habits, knowledge of the area, ability to work with documents and witnesses, and intuition, in the end.
The story of the hunt for Bonnie and Clyde is a pure western, the heroes of which were aged, moved to the mid-20th century and transferred from horses to cars. Hamer and Galt are out of place in the setting of the pre-war USA, they are no longer young and know this very well, they are behind the times, but have not yet lost their grip. In some ways, the story told in The Highwaymen is reminiscent of the story of Clint Inwood’s Unforgiven, and in mood it is closer to the Coen brothers’ No Country for Old Men.
The Highwaymen is, of course, a benefit performance for Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson. The silent and always focused Hamer (Kevin Costner) and the slightly hectic, talkative and sarcastic Gault (Woody Harrelson) are absolute opposites that complement each other. The duo of great actors simply outshine the rest of the characters. Watching their interaction, mutual understanding, just silent presence in the frame is incredibly pleasant. Lumps, not actors. Unfortunately, the rest of the performers are much inferior to this duo, with the exception of William Sadler, who played Henry Barrow, Clyde’s father. The dialogue between the father, who realizes the hopelessness of the situation in which his son finds himself, and the bounty hunter, who knows what the ending of this story will be, is one of the most powerful episodes of the film.
The Highwaymen is a very, very leisurely film. There are no crazy chases or wild shootouts. There is only lingering anticipation, months of pursuit of criminals and the final meeting, which ended fatally for Bonnie and Clyde. By the way, the episode with the ambush is almost the only time we see the faces of famous criminals, essentially children who once made one wrong choice and were never able to turn away from this bloody path.
Some episodes of the film that may seem far-fetched to you, the same ambush, the participants of which fired 130 bullets at the criminals at point-blank range and continued to shoot until the stores were emptied, the same transport of a car with corpses through a mad crowd tearing the dead criminals for souvenirs, the same Hamer’s selection of weapons… they are all true. Including the moment revealed during the publication in 1979 of a book by the last participant in the ambush, Ted Hinton, who had died two years earlier, who fulfilled his promise to his friends in 1934 and revealed what they had all sworn to hide. The true role of Evie Methvin, the father of the last surviving gang member, Henry Methvin, in orchestrating the ambush.
I’m aware that The Highwaymen won’t appeal to everyone. He is old-fashioned in many ways, too meticulous in details, which, it would seem, can be neglected. But this is a good film, with good actors, which finally de-romanticizes the old story, which, thanks to the press and Hollywood, seemed true to us.
The true story of the lawmen who killed Bonnie and Clyde