Pure Fandom Review: ‘Hell or High Water’ takes its place among westerns

The modern western film genre is unique. There simply aren’t that many great ones made anymore. However, a hit will be discussed and quoted for years.

We finally have another western to discuss and quote.

Whether you’re looking for a good time at the movies or a solid movie to lead you into awards season, Hell or High Water is a witty, action-packed adventure to be enjoyed.


The film follows two separate stories that ultimately meet up and lead to one thrilling meeting. The first plot tracks two bank-robbing brothers, Tanner and Toby Howard (Ben Foster and Chris Pine). The Howard brothers play the role of the classic “bad guy”, being bank robbers and all, but if you find yourself rooting for them don’t feel bad. You won’t be alone. They may not seem like much on the surface, but Tanner and Toby are measured and meticulous in their wrongdoing. They also have a purpose, which makes for a thought-provoking and entertaining narrative.

The second storyline follows a U.S. Marshall just three weeks from retirement, Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges). It seems as though Hamilton doesn’t want to leave his post and wants to make the most of his last ride, which is catching two seemingly small-time bank robbers.

The separate stories are obviously part of a bigger picture, which becomes one really well. But I think both narratives are also great on their own. For me, that’s a big part of what makes Hell or High Water so good. The film does cut back and forth quite a bit, so if either story was lacking just a bit it would be noticeable. It’s almost as if two solid movies are filmed and come together to make an even better one.

Another main aspect that makes Hell or High Water the next great western is an outstanding mix of fast-paced action and legitimate comedy. It takes the film about 12 seconds to get going with the action, setting a perfect tone. From there you get tension-filled exchanges, gun fights, and even a pretty big explosion near the end. The explosion could be unexpected for an independent film, but this isn’t your typical independent film either.

Speaking of unexpected, I had no inkling this movie would be as funny as it is. The film is set in Texas, which creates the perfect scene for its humor. The jokes are dry, a lot of them toe the line between appropriate and inappropriate, and some of the characters giving them are outrageous yet believable. The humor also finds a way to intertwine with the tense scenes that works for the most part. I wouldn’t at all be surprised if Hell or High Water is a drama-first film that found itself nominated for best picture at the Golden Globes in the comedy category, a la The Martian.

It’s tough to single out one, main star in the film, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Bridges, Pine, and Foster are all equally excellent in their own way. All three men add to the drama, suspense, and humor without taking a single thing from the movie. Pine and Bridges play a parallel role in a lot of ways, which is noticeable throughout the film and made obvious with the way everything turns out. Both are the right cast for their respective role.

Also, it’s about time we all started to take notice of writer Taylor Sheridan. Sheridan, who also wrote Sicario, is starting to carve out a nice little niche for himself. This makes him two-for-two in films he’s credited with writing.

I’m a big fan of a good western film, and have been waiting for one since Django Unchained. Despite a different tone, Hell or High Water is a western at its core and one the genre can be proud of.

(Image courtesy of


Steve Richards

Steve is happy to talk about anything pop culture; movies, TV, music, etc. Comic book movies are a specialty, but critically acclaimed movies and TV shows are also a sweet spot. He’s a co-host of the Prime Time Fantasy Football and Showcast podcasts on Next Level Radio. The second is a pop culture podcast focused heavily on movies and geeking out! As a writer, Steve is a freelance reporter for a local newspaper,, and of course Pure Fandom! He covers a variety of high school sports on the first two platforms.

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