The Highwaymen (2019)
April 1, 2019 6:38 AM - Subscribe

A pair of police officers come out of retirement to catch the infamous outlaws Bonnie & Clyde.

Extensive interview with director John Lee Hancock and writer John Fusco.

Critics have been divided about this new take on story, but as Bonnie Parker wrote:
If you're still in need / of something to read / here's the story of Bonnie and Clyde.

Den of Geek: Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson Set Bloody Record Straight
AV club: Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson are together at last, and regrettably dull, in The Highwaymen
AV forums: The Old Men and the Gunslingers
The Guardian: Netflix take on Bonnie and Clyde is criminally bad
posted by elgilito (9 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I thought it was great. It felt like a period prequel of True Detective: two cops on the road, driving in circles (sometimes literally) through the US countryside in the pursuit of ghostly targets that are both mythical and pitiful. Things I liked:
  • It's not an action movie, there's little or no violence, except at the end, and it's not glamourized the way it was in the 1967 movie.
  • The background of the Great Depression background is an integral part of the story and shown to explain the popular support enjoyed by the Barrow gang. We even get to see the migrant camps, right from Dorothea Lange's photos, something that (to my knowledge) has been absent from Hollywood movies since John Ford's The Grapes of Wrath in 1940.
  • It's one of those rare period movies that acknowledge the limitations of its time and place. Forensics barely exist, cops don't have radios, cars are slow, roads are long, communication is poor, information is sketchy, everybody - cops and robbers alike - is amateurish. The two Rangers, Hamer and Gault, have a just vague idea of how Barrow and Parker look like (they have to include in the posse another cop who actually knew them so that he can ID them). And even though they're shown to be more competent than Hoover's G-Men, the Rangers are better at tracking outlaws than at handling informants.
  • Frank Hamer, who was ridiculed in the 1967 movie, is shown here as stern and cold-blooded, a mass-murdering boogeyman whose scary feats of past violence are told in hushed tones around campfires.
  • Parker & Barrow are shown strictly from the POV of the cops and witnesses. They're elusive, mythical figures, glimpsed from afar, who don't became real (and shorter!) until their death.
  • It shows how insane was the celebrity cult surrounding Parker & Barrow. People tried to cut out parts of their corpses when their car was dragged through the streets on the way to the mortuary.
I'd like to know if the robot-looking armored G-Man we see patrolling in the streets was an actual thing. It's clearly inspired by this design from 1956, though there's also the Brewsters Body Shield from WW1.

I didn't know that the lyrics of the classic Gainsbourg/Bardot song "Bonnie & Clyde" was largely inspired by Bonnie Parker's The Trail's End poem, which Frank Hamer reads in the movie.
posted by elgilito at 7:05 AM on April 1, 2019

I also really liked this, and I'm surprised the reviews are so negative. (But I'm also a sucker for exactly this kind of meandering story with great scenery and a foregone conclusion ending.)
posted by odd ghost at 2:48 AM on April 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

I too enjoyed this; slow, and meditative. We know what's coming, the characters know what's coming, and they take the time to set up the fact that this is a horrible conclusion to a horrible series of events, and that it is not triumphant but sad. It worked for me.

I'm surprised, out of the reviews I've read, nobody has mentioned the bookended roles for Woody between Natural Born Killers and this.
posted by nubs at 7:20 PM on April 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

(Wish Kim Dickens and Kathy Bates had more screen time, though)
posted by nubs at 7:27 PM on April 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

Glad y'all put me onto this one. I'm watching it again. Thomas Newman did the score and that's always a plus for me.

Did Frank Hamer really have a pet razorback?
posted by kingless at 2:51 AM on April 3, 2019

Did Frank Hamer really have a pet razorback?
Not a razorback, but he had a pet peccary (javelina) called "Porky". Much of the information used to portray Hamer in the film comes from discussions writer John Fusco had with Hamer's son in the early 2000s (TW: gory pic of Parker and Barrow).
posted by elgilito at 2:41 AM on April 4, 2019

I found the "neighborhood watch" in the Barrow gang's home territory very interesting, like cops trying to operate in Corsica or something. It was extra fun seeing this along with the Arthur Penn B&C movie showing on Netflix at the same time. And, unlike the 1967 movie, they got the guns (more) right - using BARs rather than the Tommy guns depicted in the earlier movie.
posted by Bee'sWing at 4:53 PM on April 8, 2019

For sure a concern about historical accuracy, it's odd they lean into the whole Bonnie was a cold blooded killer thing. Seems not exactly settled and is a clear choice by the film to make them even more bloodthirsty.
posted by Carillon at 7:12 PM on April 13, 2019

I just finished watching this.

I enjoyed it very much. Someone mentioned Woody and Natural Born Killers. I kept thinking of Kevin and The Untouchables. Kevin's Frank Hamer is Eliot Ness if he had had to stay on the job.

This movie also evokes other late Westerns like The Professionals and The Wild Bunch with what are basically cowboys, but in early 20th century clothes and armed with early 20th century weapons.

Kevin's silent, solid act that he has been doing now for almost thirty years was appropriate for this movie. I liked Woody as Maney more than Kevin as Frank.
posted by Fukiyama at 8:18 PM on April 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

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