Everybody knows the story of Bonnie and Clyde. They’re the star-crossed lovers who robbed, shot, and raced their way across the south of the USA. Many a movie has documented their romance, making them appear as some kind of 20th century Robin Hoods. However, what isn’t as often explored, is the story behind the fellas who brought them down. That’s where Netflix’s newest release, The Highwaymen, comes in.
The movie follows Hamer (Kevin Costner) and Gault (Woody Harrelson), a pair of Texas Rangers who come out of retirement to help bring down Bonnie and Clyde. It’s a tale of murder, mystery, and quite a lot of driving.
For a story that has the potential to be a whirlwind of excitement and action, it’s a little bit lacklustre. The tale meanders through the sandy plains of the south, taking its sweet time to bring round plot points that otherwise would need about five minutes to explain. In the grand scheme of things, this doesn’t actually cause that much dissatisfaction: instead, it really shows the viewer just how long it had taken officials to find Bonnie and Clyde, let alone catch them. What it does do, however, is make the movie a bit of a boring ride right until the last half an hour/hour or so.
As far as the acting goes, it’s what you can expect from Costner and Harrelson. These seasoned professionals are, pretty much, good at anything they do. Unless Costner is trying to do an English accent, but let’s not talk about that. They play the good cop/bad cop perfectly, melding together like bullets in a car door. Hamer’s gravelly, determined and meticulous presence is overwhelmingly threatening; he’s the Grim Reaper of the south, and he knows he has two lives to take.
Gault, however, is the complete opposite. He’s tender, funny, and a lot less serious than Hamer. Yet, somehow, the dynamic just works. You can see the pet peeves they have with each other, and the aspects that make them get on with each other. They play friends ridiculously well, and it really pays off.
There are a few other big names peppered around the movie, but they’re not seen that much. Kathy Bates as Ma Ferguson is rarely seen, only once to reluctantly agree to reinstating the Texas Rangers to catch the culprits, and then once again to happily take credit for the work Hamer and Gault did. Other than that, the movie is mainly focused on the two best buds.
Yet, the relationship between Hamer and Gault is pretty much the only thing that doesn’t need work. The story, as exciting as it might sound, is lacklustre. Not a lot happens, secondary plots are either never addressed after their appearance or come to nothing in the end, and overall, it’s just a mish-mash of parts the writers thought sounded interesting, but didn’t quite translate as well as they might have wanted.
Granted, this movie isn’t the worst thing ever, but it’s certainly not the best. There’s a lot of room for improvement: the special effects are sub-par, and it stops you from being fully submersed in the world this is happening in. Yet, there are some scenes that are interestingly shot, as well as others that are genuinely harrowing.
The final scene, whereby the wrecked car of Bonnie and Clyde is towed to the police station with the bullet-studded remains of the couple still inside, with the windows open, is horrible. Crowds of people scrap and fight their way to grab at the corpses, screaming bloody murder, yet with huge smiles on their faces. It’s a poignant reminder of just how hard the job that Hamer and Gault do actually is, as well as a reminder of the multiple people Bonnie and Clyde killed mercilessly themselves. All in all, the final scene is a winner, and in a hit and miss movie, it’s an uncomfortable and unfortunate reminder of the potential it had hidden away.
All in all, The Highwaymen is a good attempt at exploring a side to the Bonnie and Clyde story that may have otherwise flown under the radar. It just wasn’t executed as well as it could have been, and unfortunately, the movie suffers from that.