Rating: 3 stars
Last week, Netflix released a new John Lee Hancock film, “The Highwaymen,” starring Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson. The film takes place during the 1930s and focuses on the story of two retired Texas rangers, Frank Hamer and Maney Gault, who took down notorious outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. The film boasts a talented cast alongside Costner and Harrelson, with performances from Kathy Bates, John Carroll Lynch and William Sadler comprising the supporting cast.
Overall, the film is a bit of a mixed bag. There is a lot to be said about the acting. Costner and Harrelson do a good job portraying two hardened gunslingers who are well past their prime. The relationship between the two is definitely what drives the film forward. The supporting cast, while perfectly fine, doesn’t really add much to the narrative. There are also a few scenes with very good writing, but they’re sort of scattered throughout and don’t show up consistently. The script has its bright spots but it’s mostly a generic road film with factory directing.
Ultimately, the film’s biggest problem seems to be directing and editing. Neither is particularly bad, but the film feels incredibly slow at times. To add insult to injury, the plot can also be hard to follow. There are scenes in which new characters are introduced but the audience isn’t told who the person is or why they should care. One such scene is when Maney Gault, a key character, is introduced. If not for the fact that Woody Harrelson is playing him, you wouldn’t know who it was.
The film does, however, do a good job of accurately portraying the legacy and history of Bonnie and Clyde. The film never really shows them up close until the very end but their presence is felt throughout the entirety of the film. One of the best scenes takes place early in the film where a group of politicians and lawmakers are theorizing the idea of bringing in Frank Hamer to hunt them down. Hamer, played by John Carroll Lynch, has a great line where he states that Bonnie and Clyde are more beloved than the movie stars. There is also a great moment between Hamer and Clyde’s father, played by William Sadler, where the audience gets to learn a lot about Clyde Barrow’s upbringing as well as Hamer’s path to becoming a Texas ranger.
The film also does a good job of showcasing the look and feel of the 1930s. It looks and feels like the Great Depression, and the costuming and set design are certainly praiseworthy.
If you’re looking for a historical film with solid acting then you will probably enjoy this film. However, the lack of a truly entertaining narrative will undoubtedly turn most viewers away, especially those of the younger generations.